I think I’ve confessed here before that one thing I love about writing is doing the background research.
Sometimes my reason for enjoying the research is obvious, such as the many times I’ve–tragically, I know–found myself needing to know something about men’s underwear. No, seriously. My husband’s a confirmed boxer-briefs-from-Target kind of guy, so if I want my guys to wear anything more exotic than that, I can’t rely on Hubby as an information resource. I’ve visited the Andrew Christian website enough times that their ads keep appearing on websites I visit. Again, tragic.
But not all my enjoyable research involves nearly-naked men. Sometimes I like the challenge of it. For my novella The Pillar, which will come out in August, I needed to know how much a male slave would have cost in 15th century Bosnia. I never found a definitive answer to that one. But I did find out the cost of a slave in Venice during the same timeframe, and I found out the name of the currency used in Bosnia then, and I even was able to do a currency conversion to arrive at an approximation that’s close enough, I think.
So now I’m writing a story set in rural Oregon in the 1880s. I’m only about 5000 words in, but here are the things I’ve looked up so far:
- How to load and shoot a shotgun from that era– I’m still searching for good info on this
- What color would a wolf’s eyes glow in lantern light at night?
- What were the most popular boy names in the USA circa 1860?
- Were there possums in Oregon in the 1880s?– I vaguely remember hearing they were brought west during the Great Depression, and it turns out that’s true. So no possums in my story.
- What year did the transcontinental railroad arrive in Portland?– 1883, in case you wondered too.
- How would a horse be attached to a cart it was going to pull?– Because I know zilch about horses or wagons.
- Where was a tony place to live in New York City in this era?– Fifth Avenue
- What would a fairly wealthy young man have for breakfast in Paris in the 1880s?
Sometimes it’s a miracle I get any writing done at all!