Welcome back to the Historical Novel Research series!
Today’s author is Velda Brotherton, author of several novels including Wolf Song, Stone Heart's Woman and Wilda's Outlaw: The Victorians.
Velda Brotherton writes of romance in the old west with an authenticity that
makes her many historical characters ring true. A knowledge of the rich history of our country comes through in both her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her writing workshops and speaking engagements. She just as easily steps out of the past into contemporary settings to create novels about women with the ability to conquer life’s difficult challenges. Tough heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for, all live in the pages of her novels and books.
What is the time period/setting for your novels?
Post Civil War into the 1880s
Do you have any special connection to the period?
My great grandmother on my mother's side went west from Ohio to Kansas in a covered wagon when she was 13. I was 16 when she died, so as a child I can remember her telling some stories of the trip. My dad was a great storyteller. He was raised in Texas in and around the oil fields. I think the two began my raging curiosity about that era. I like books and movies that take place from the Civil War on. And the west is my favorite setting. My family on my dad's side has a Cherokee background, and so I have a connection to history that includes American Indians.
|Stone Heart's Woman|
I think it's the courage and fortitude of the people who lived then. No occurrence was too much for them to tackle. The men were strong and had a deep sense of right and wrong. Some of course, took the wrong path, but in those days it was easy to tell the good guys fro the bad. The women were courageous and had a deep sense of loyalty to family. That combination makes for good characters and stories. They don't call it the Wild West for nothing, and how much fun that is to write about.
How much time do you spend researching each book?
It's hard to say because I often write about something my husband and I researched in the past. When he or I become curious about certain events or historical characters, the research begins for both of us. My computer is filled with historical stories and topics that I hope to use one day. On top of that, when we travel, we often find a small town that has a unique history and so we take the time to research that on the spot. Several towns are waiting to be featured in one of my books.
Do you tend to research before you write, or more as you write?
Even though I have all that research on hand, as I write, I'll often run across something I don't know that I need to know. Usually I ask hubby because he likes to have a goal when messing around with his computer, so he finds out what I need to know and sends me the links. And I can continue to write while waiting for the information.
Both. It's important to be careful and find sources that don't all come from the same primary source. If there's a legend attached and we can't find a primary source, I'm apt to use the legend as a part of the fictional story. That always makes for interesting writing. I just finished a novella based around the legend of The Cimarron Rose. There are so many contradictory stories that I created a story of my own and will explain the legend in my author's notes at the end of the novella.
Any favorite sources?
No. The most important thing to remember is that some people post incorrect information, and it's important to use well-documented sources. I do like sources from states or towns where certain things took place. If you go to Texas sites, then go to the towns where your book is set, you're bound to find good, solid information for the setting. Many states also have online encyclopedias, which are well vetted and tell many good stories of the people and places there. I also like to use bibliographies from nonfiction books by well-established writers of history.
Have you ever found out after a book was published that you made an error with a historical fact?
Not that I can recall, though I'm sure a few were made. We all can make mistakes, but we do our best to keep history right. During my career writing historical nonfiction I've been called up on a couple of things, but could never get to the truth in those cases. A historian friend of mine told me once that we could never be sure of getting all history correct, since there were usually so many variations on the stories told.
Which authors in this time period do you enjoy? Who inspires you?
I don't read much fiction in the time period I write in, only nonfiction. Maria Sandoz is one of my favorite writers for American Indian history, which I include in a lot of my books. Stone Heart's Woman is based on the facts in her book, Cheyenne Autumn. My books that include Cherokees use information from James Mooney's Histories, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. Even though we research a lot online, I still use a lot of books. I like diaries of women who went west. Many of them kept very complete journals of their experiences.
What are some of the books you’ve published?
Here's a link to all my books, which are available on Amazon. Latest three books are Wolf Song, Stone Heart's Woman and Wilda's Outlaw: The Victorians.
How can readers learn more or reach out to you?
My blog: http://veldabrotherton.wordpress.com
I hope you enjoyed today’s interview. If you have questions about how historical novelists conduct their research, be sure to include them in the comments or reach out to the authors directly.
All the best!