Research – Shadowed in Silk, Part One
Both days this week I’m welcoming author Christine Lindsay. She’s going to tell us how she went about researching for her novel, Shadowed in Silk. Good to have you, Christine!
Being a history buff, I loved researching Shadowed in Silk. But after writing 2 novels, and currently on my 3rd, I sometimes despair. The world is full of couch experts like me, not to mention professionals.
Like every writer, I’m prepared for when my book comes out, and hoping a reader won’t stop mid-sentence to say, “Hey, wait a minute, that detail’s wrong.”
My daughter, the real history major, gave me this advice. When writing a university paper, a student must use at least 2 primary sources——meaning first person experiences, in other words, autobiographies and such. For that kind of research, I find the good old library is best.
The hero of my story is a major in the British Cavalry during England’s rule over India. To understand the myriad of details that go into the life of that kind of officer, I read the autobiographies and biographies of military personnel from before and after the WWI era that I was writing on. Certain details just don’t change while others do.
One thing that didn’t change for quite some time was the galvanized bathtub my Major Geoff Richards would bathe in. But I wanted to get the details of his uniform correct, details such as his khaki drill jacket and the Sam Brown Belt that the British are so proud of. Geoff keeps his clothing in the same tin-lined truck that he’d first brought out from England as a raw subaltern. You need a tin-lined trunk for your clothes in India, to keep the bugs out.
I read about the type of tents an officer would sleep in while away on maneuvers, and one of my favorite details—what it ‘feels’ like to sit on a cavalry charger as it jumps over irrigation canals in Northern India.
I took copious notes, very careful to not use the other writer’s words, so as to avoid plagiarism, but took their details and created my own scenes with my own words.
One of my favorite lines which I did not use for my book was the way one real-life Brigadier General referred to the short colorful jacket an officer would wear for fancy dress—he called them bum-freezer jackets. I didn’t use that particular colloquialism as my character Geoff simply would not speak in a vulgar manner ever. He’s a serious-minded man, my Major Geoff. But I did dress him up in a short dress jacket with epaulets on his shoulders, slim black slacks, and white gloves. He looked quite dashing the night of the New Years Eve ball set in the Governor’s mansion and the gardens heavy with the scent of roses. All details checked on, as yes, the air is heavy with roses in the city of Lahore at that time of year.
Music sets an era like nothing else can. It was easy enough to find out on the internet what kind of music was popular during WWI, and I could even listen to it. I’ve included the link here for you to hear the love song that keeps my heroine Abby going through four lonely years of war and afterward when she finally gets to India.
At the beginning of Shadowed in Silk Geoff has just returned from the Great War. Like a lot of soldiers who went through that war he is suffering from shell shock. Thanks to my daughter majoring in history, I was able to use her notes and books on WWI to find out how shell shock affects various men, where they would have stayed in hospital. Not all the details that I researched went directly into the story, but I needed to know where Geoff would or would not have been.
As Geoff suffers from nightmares, I needed details of what the screaming minnies sounded like as they exploded close to where he would have been hunkered down in the trenches with his men. I needed to know why Geoff is scarred emotionally inside as well as outwardly.
On Sandra’s Friday blog, I’ll talk about the research I did for my heroine, Abby Fraser, and how I tried to make her life come alive. I hope you’ll join me again. Here is the back of the book blurb for Shadowed in Silk
She was invisible to those who should have loved her.
After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.
Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the India people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.
Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.
Christine Lindsay writes historical inspirational novels with strong love stories, but she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Her debut novel Shadowed in Silk is set in India during a turbulent era. Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj was seeded from stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India. Shadowed in Silk won the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical under the title Unveiled.
The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home. It’s a special time in her life as she and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but also the noise and fun when the kids and grandkids comes home. Like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.
Come on back Friday and read the rest of Christine’s research story.
Christine – great article, especially for one who is not wild and crazy on research (me!) Your book sounds wonderufl and I look forward to reading it!
Thank you Sandy, for having me as a guest today. I hope your readers who enjoy research as much as I do will like this dander to the other side of the world. The era I’m writing on is at a time when a great deal of the map was colored pink, representing the British Empire. Times to change, but what happened yesterday has such an affect on what’s happening today.
Hi Edwina, I listened to a great seminar on researching by Tricia Goyer. She said to get a good idea of where you want your story to go before you start researching so that you can narrow the field. That way you shouldn’t go down too many rabbit trails in your research. Which is what happened to me with Shadowed. But at least I have enough research already done for the sequel. I too hope you will be able to read my book one day. I honestly think you’ll like it.
I’m like you when it comes to worrying about whether or not I have all my facts right. Tricia Goyer’s words make a lot of sense and that’s basically how I do it. Sometimes, though, new ideas come in the middle of the first draft and I have to stop to research.
Anita Mae Draper
Interesting stuff, Christine. My favourite historicals are those where the author invests many hours in research to get the feel and accuracy right. You’ve certainly done that.
The first time I met you was at the ACFW Minn conference during the First Timer’s briefing. I always remembered that and was curious why you picked that era to set your story. And now I know. 🙂
Your book sounds intriguing and I’m looking forward to reading it. Congrats on getting it published.
Hi Anita Mae, I have remembered you all this time. I think it’s because we’re both Canadians. Your encouragement means a great deal to me.