Today, I’m delighted to welcome Heidi Eljarbo to the blog with a post about her new historical mystery and her research process.
I believe anyone who writes historical fiction can tell you they spend almost more time on research than on the actual writing. But the thing is, if you love history and tales from days gone by, and you choose to write stories about it, you will enjoy the learning process. The research journey can be fun and enlightening, sometimes surprising and sad, but always interesting.
Historical fiction brings the past to life and transports readers to another time and place. In order to do that I believe it’s important to think about the five senses when researching a scene. The reader expects to be swept into another world and seamlessly see, hear, feel, taste, and even touch things in that scene, as if they are there…as if they are part of the story.
In Hidden Masterpiece, I write dual timelines. The main part of the book takes place in 1944 during WWII. The other part that’s woven into the main story goes back to 1639. Two different time periods. Two different women. But these two protagonists—although three hundred years apart— are connected through their love of art.
I’m glad I love history so much, because even if this is a novel with twice the amount of research, I cherish the process and everything I learn. My hope is that the readers will enjoy learning, too.
I’ve read that British author Ken Follett spends a year researching before he types a single word. One year!
I don’t know how much time I spend on research before I start writing, but I collect notes and thoughts, write down fun sentences I hear when watching period dramas, and have a good overall idea about the time period beforehand. But then, after I begin writing, I am continually researching details along the way.
I taught a class about research for historical fiction at the SMIAH conference in August this year. Before teaching, I had done a survey among readers of the genre to see what they expect, how important historical fiction research is when they read a novel, and what the pitfalls are. Readers of this genre have strong opinions on the subject. Many answered how historical facts sparked their interest, they wanted to learn more, and they followed up by doing their own research. A common answer was also that research is essential, and they don’t like inaccuracies, anachronism, or too much unnecessary descriptions.
So, what’s my research process? I need more time and space to give a complete answer, but I have some favorites. Articles, history books, older book with authentic descriptions, time witnesses, paintings, photographs, letters, journals, memoirs, visit places, and museums. The list goes on and on.
I had a history of clothing class in college. It was a favorite of mine. And still today, my books about clothes through the ages are always on the table when I research and write my novels.
The last thing I’d like to mention is an Author’s Note. If I have played with historical facts or twist the details to suit the purpose of the novel, you may find an explanation in an Author’s Note at the end of the book. It’s also a place to elaborate a certain happening or the life of a real person in the story.
Thank you for having me on your blog today, MJ Porter. I can truly say, I enjoyed researching Hidden Masterpiece.
Thank you for so much for sharing your research with me. Good luck with the new book.
Here’s the blurb:
In this riveting third book in the Soli Hansen Mysteries series, a woman’s courage to follow her conviction during a horrible war leads her to the portrait of a young Jewish heiress painted three centuries earlier.
Norway 1944. Art historian Soli Hansen has gone undercover to rescue masterpieces and keep them from falling into the hands of Nazi thieves. Working with a small resistance group led by her best friend Heddy, Soli will stop at nothing to thwart the efforts of the invaders of their scenic country. Trust and loyalty mean everything when working against a merciless enemy.
Riddles and clues lead the way to a mysterious work of art. It’s a race against time, but Soli and her network refuse to give up. However, when news arrives that her sweetheart Nikolai is missing in action, she strives to concentrate on the demanding quest.
From the streets of Oslo to the snow-covered mountains and medieval churches of Nume Valley, Soli takes risks larger than her courage, trying to preserve and hide precious art. But she must decide if it’s all worth losing the man she loves.
Antwerp 1639. Fabiola Ruber’s daughter, Annarosa, wants to honor her mother’s last wish and have her portrait done by a master artist who specializes in the art of chiaroscuro. Her uncle writes to an accomplished painter in Amsterdam and commissions him to paint his beloved niece.
Struggling with religious and social persecution, the Jewish Ruber family uproots once again and travels northward. On the way, they will sojourn in Amsterdam for Annarosa’s sitting in the master painter’s studio. But will they make it there? None of them can foresee the danger of such a journey.
This novel is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.
Meet the Author
Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.
Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.
Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.
Connect with Heidi