Note from Caroline: I’m thrilled to have author Jody Hedlund on the blog today sharing a bit about how she researches for her historical fiction novels. I recently finished reading her newest release, Captured by Love, and reviewed it earlier this week. Jody is one of my favorite Christian fiction authors, and one of my favorite aspects is her obvious detail in research. Read on for her ideas, plus a book giveaway at the end!
In the last post, I shared about the importance of research for historical novels. One of the ways historical novelists do research is by going on location to the setting of their books.
While research trips may not provide the best information about how life was like long ago (since SO much has changed over the ensuing years), the trips are still informative. And let’s face it, they’re FUN!
During my research trip to Mackinac Island, I took some time to learn about the island in general (see Part 1). But then I also spent an afternoon visiting Fort Mackinac which is a military post that was built in 1780 on the high limestone bluffs overlooking the town.
The island (then known as Michilimackinac Island) offered a defensible location, especially with its deep sheltered harbor and limestone bluffs.
As I walked up the steep path that lead to the South Sally Port (a technical term for the south entrance of the fort), I could picture the soldiers scurrying up to the fort and stopping now and then to turn around and take in the magnificent view. If I’d been a soldier, I would have been sight-seeing during my climb to the top!
Once inside the stone walls, I took my time visiting all of the various historical buildings that comprise the fort, including the block houses, the stone officer’s quarters, and the soldier’s barracks. I even watched a rifle firing demonstration on the center green.
My favorite view was from the top of the stone wall at the front of the fort, the place where the cannons were placed to protect the island from any ships that might attack. Again the view is absolutely spectacular!
Since Captured by Love took place during the War of 1812, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be in the fort, firing at enemy ships, waiting for an invasion, and wondering if I’d live or die.
I was especially fascinated with the Black Hole, an infamous hole in the ground that was used as a place to hold prisoners. Without air or light, the hole was basically a death sentence to prisoners who had to languish in it for any length of time. Of course the picture I took doesn’t do justice to the cramped quarters. A full grown man wouldn’t have been able to sit or stand comfortably. And there weren’t any stairs to get out.
I definitely had to make use of the Black Hole in Captured by Love! It seemed like the perfect place to have one of the characters have their blackest moment. I put the character in the hole with literally no way out. I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out if the character gets out alive!
So there you have it! A brief version of my research trip to Mackinac Island. Of course I had to end the trip with buying fudge. A person simply cannot go to Mackinac without buying their homemade, mouth-watering, world-famous fudge!
How about you? What’s your favorite flavor of fudge? (Mine is the either turtle or toffee!)
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher’s Bride, Unending Devotion, and A Noble Groom. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children.
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