Sunday, January 22, 2012

K is for Kazakhstan

I have never been to Kazakhstan. Or Kentucky.
If I wanted to set a romance in either place, I’d need some self-education. The ideal method would be move there, fulfilling my if-only-I-could dream of becoming a purposeful nomad. Second best, I could travel there on a vacation.
But neither of these are realistically within my grasp, so let’s brainstorm on how I could prepare to write an historical romance set in the Bluegrass State.

1. I could talk with someone who lived there, either in person or online.
2. A Writers Digest book called “Writer’s Guide to Places” lists interesting facts about US states and their major cities. For example, “Kentucky never chose sides in the Civil War, and a Henderson teacher named Mary Wilson came up with the idea for Mother’s Day in 1887.” The book also lists books and websites for further research.
3. I inherited a 1965 World Book Encyclopedia set. The history and terrain sections are still valid.
4. I could check out books from the library. Especially nice are children’s books.
5. Use Google maps and other Google features for correct street alignment.

What sources do you use for setting research?


  1. Personally I prefer to set my stories in places I already know, mainly because I'd be worried about getting something completely wrong about a place I don't know. It's not just the factual stuff, or even the geographical layout, although these are important, also Google street view is an excellent resource. Even with places I know well, I still have to research a lot of extra details.
    However, sometimes I do have to have my characters going somewhere I don't know, and then I use whatever resources I can find online. I find travel sites useful, plus sites about local housing, hotels, restaurants etc.

  2. I tend to use Youth non-fiction books when doing research. It's presented in easy to understand terms, and gives a basic overview without getting too technical. It's just the right amount of information.

    Although, I too, like Paula usually set my stories in places I'm familiar with. If I can actually see it in my memories, it makes it easier for me to describe for my readers.

  3. It's easiest for me to set a story in a place that I know, but that doesn't mean I always do it. If I'm able to actually go to the place, then I prefer to do that. For example, I don't actually live in NYC, but I've been there often enough that I feel comfortable using that as a setting. And if I need to check something, there are a ton of websites to check and I can also easily visit it, as I live fairly close. For my most recent book, there are several settings--California, Michigan and New Jersey. NJ was the easy part! :) For the California info, I used what I've seen on TV and in the movies to describe specific settings, plus street maps. For Michigan, I did research on the internet, but I also winged it to some extent--the setting wasn't necessarily state-specific and could have taken place anywhere. For anything that was essential though, again, I used the Internet.