Weird Research

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!

2 thoughts on “Weird Research

  1. researching is fun…even when you find yourself three hours later reading about Norwegian immigration in 1800s London…when all you were initially looking for was information about Hardanger fiddles.

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