1. Jane, the depth of your research is amazing. Do you go through a particular process before starting a novel? Can you give us some tips on effective research?
I've always been caught up with the details of history, which is why I peruse antique stores, museums, and watch Antique's Road Show with a note pad in hand. On any given day, I ask myself how my character might have dealt with a grumpy store clerk or a bad tooth or a broken arm fifty miles from the nearest doctor.
Because most of my characters are based on real people, I create a timeline usually beginning with their birth, where they were, who the family consisted of at that point, etc. As I track family tree material, I'm also looking at current events at the same time and asking myself what the family would have known of the beginning of the War of 1812 or when news of Lincoln's assassination might have reached them in far away Oregon Territory. I read what others might have written about the character or the event (as in the Oregon Trail disaster of 1852 that I wrote of in the Kinship and Courage Series), and read books like "The History of the Cholera Epidemic." I make a note of particular events that seem intriguing to me with where I learned about it (museum notes, a book, etc.) and a reference right on the timeline, so I can go back and find it later for more detail.
Photographs are very important in my research. I Google, "Penny Postcards" and then enter the county I'm looking for and find a range of picture postcards during the early 20th century when they were popular. My latest novel, "A Flickering Light," is about my grandmother, an early photographer in Minnesota. I located a postcard picture of the "Northwest Stammers School" in Milwaukee, which played into the storyline as her younger brother stammered as a result of an accident that my grandmother felt some guilt about. She was in Milwaukee running a photographic studio in 1911, so the school played into the storyline. I would not have known about it without seeking out photographs of the region and period.
Due to the vast amount of material Jane provided, we'll continue this interview on Friday in place of the Friday Round-Up.