A warm welcome to author Dianne Greenlay!
Saving lives by day (physiotherapist, EMT) and spinning lies by night (writer/author and playwright/director of Community Theatre), I live on the Canadian prairies with my husband in a lovely historical home that we share with a consortium of cats. Having raised a family of 6 kids ( and, amazingly, everyone lived through it!) , I have plenty of their escapades still fresh in my mind, to weave into my fiction. Whenever possible, I travel to exotic locales to research my novels and to seek out new adventures to fuel my already overactive imagination.
Sounds great! Could you tell us about research for your book?
Research for Quintspinner
Hi Laura, thanks so much for this invitation to guest post on your site!
It's nice to have you here, Dianne.
Tips for writing in the historical genre:
A) Making the decision:
In having centuries to choose from, a writer must still have a seed of an idea to narrow the choices down. My novel, Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest came about as the result of a seemingly topic-unrelated Google search result. That is to say that I was searching for information on a present day medical term and, in the search results, up came "women pirates". Well, who knew? At the time I didn't know that there were such people, but it caught my interest and as I investigated, I found out that not only were there several women pirates throughout history, but that they were quite well documented and were extraordinary characters. Two of the more well-known and colorful female pirates (Anne Bonny and Mary Read) lived in the early 1700's and sailed through the Caribbean. Having read extensively about them, I chose to tell a story in that time period and locale. Little did I know that a novel set in this setting would entail so much research!
B) Ask the experts:
Luckily for me, I had already travelled frequently through the Caribbean and had firsthand experience with the physical details of the intended setting. However, I also made a trip to Nova Scotia, Canada and visited several of their Maritime Museums and nautical displays. The curators were a wonderful source of nautical information and unexpected bits of entertaining sea lore. I came back from that trip with several notebooks full of details.
C) Write what you know and get some experience when and where and if you can (preferably in a non-life threatening manner):
Again with the hands on, although not necessarily all historical research, I managed to (rather, attempted to) haul a sail up a mast on a tall ship - a task physically demanding beyond belief; I was swamped in a 12 man Zodiac boat by a spouting Orca off the coast of Vancouver island; I sailed in a Hobie Cat in shark territory off the coast of Mexico (unintentional, let me tell you!), and got caught in an ocean undertow while learning to surf in Hawaii. Back home, I made hard tack biscuits, similar to the type that sailors survived on, and invited friends over to share. At the same time, all in the name of research, I made up a batch of sailors' "grog" as documented by several sources, and inflicted it upon my unsuspecting, but game friends. Awful, foul-tasting stuff - at least the first 12 glassfuls were....
D) Internet and library info costs nothing (so use it, use it, use it):
My dryland research was far less traumatic. Writers now have the Internet to do research by and I certainly made use of that, but I also fell back on using my local library. Before long, I had ordered in so many reference texts, I was on a first name basis with all of the librarians! They never flagged in their enthusiasm for my interest in all things belonging to the 1700's, and were impressive at tracking down even little known publications.
E) Remember, it's historical:
Collecting the historical details was only one step in writing the novel from a historical perspective. As I was writing and plotting the story, I tried to stay true to known behaviours and mores for the eighteenth century. People behaved very differently 300 years ago and what was quite commonplace to them is now unacceptable to many of us. Child labor, casual, but violent deaths, and drastic medical treatments were some of the things that came up over and over again in my research, so I had my characters behaving in ways and making decisions with regards to these, that were appropriate for their times - quite different than if they had been living today. Time references were particularly difficult for me to write - I avoided using the terms "hours" and "minutes" even though there were hour glasses and sundials by then, as my characters were at sea, and such items were not used on an individual basis on a ship.
F) Learn from other historical writers:
I was also fortunate to have been granted a one-on-one blue pencil session with the famous Diana Gabaldon (author of The Outlander historical series), at the Surrey International Writers' conference, in which she emphasized that too much minute detail is boring for the reader. The writer/researcher discovering gruesome/interesting/astonishing facts for the first time will think that it is all just too good not to use, BUT don't be tempted to overload. Her words of advice were that if it doesn't move the story along, totally engage your reader's senses in some way, or substantially affect/build a character or setting, then leave it out. On the other hand, it is a great skill to be able to write a riveting story (and we all want ours to be so), including historical details and tidbits in a fashion that educates while still being entertaining. I'm still working on that one.
Being a debut author, I didn't realize -didn't even consider - the popularity of the historical genre. (At the time, in my mind, there were only vampire stories and then everything else.) There were A LOT of things that I didn't know when I started and that's probably a good thing or I may have been intimidated and overwhelmed by the writing process. As it was, it had taken me a year, writing part-time, to complete my novel. When I read of others (Stephanie Meyers,Twilight series, for instance) pounding out a complete novel in a matter of weeks, not months, I felt a bit inept, a little crazy even, for having put in the effort.
It was only after I had finished, and Quintspinner began to win awards, including Reader Views First Place for Best Historical, that I looked back on all the information I had amassed and took stock of the writing skills that I had honed. Quintspinner was also awarded the Tyler R. Tichelaar Award for Best Historical Novel, and in speaking with Tyler, who is a historian with a Ph.D. in English literature and has several published books to his credit, I asked him, "Do you think writing in the historical genre is harder and more time-consuming than other genres because of the research required?" He readily agreed. "Sometimes I think I'm crazy to write in the genre that I do, but it's my passion," he admitted.
And that was all the justification that I needed to dive into "crazy" again, writing Book Two in the Quintspinner series. I'm loving every minute of it!
Wow, I'm quite impressed with your research! It's good to hear that you're writing another book. I wish you the best with that, your series, and lots of success on Book One as well. Now for a blurb and excerpt to tempt readers:
• Blurb: In the year 1717, 16 year old Tess Willoughby witnesses a murder near a London marketplace and becomes the keeper of a legendary Spinner ring. Even so, she never imagines that she will find herself an unwilling passenger on a merchant ship bound for the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies and forcibly betrothed to the murderer. Longing to be with William, a young press-ganged sailor, but unable to escape her dangerous fiance's clutches, Tess struggles to survive in her new set of circumstances. During a pirate attack, she unravels the legacy of her strange Spinner ring and its power, realizing that her own life and those of everyone she loves, are in jeopardy. As a powerful hurricane overtakes the ship, a slim opportunity for her own escape presents itself, and she is forced to make the most chilling decision of her life. Having won multiple Book Awards, (ReaderViews, ForeWord Connections, Creative Arts Council, Sask Book Award, Eric Hoffer Award) Quintspinner is a tale of pirates, secrets, betrayal, and romance on the seas of the West Indies, all bound together by a dash of ancient magic.
"Are you alright?" Tess whispered into her sister's ear. "How have you been treated?" Even as the words left her mouth, Tess's hands slid down to her sister's shoulders and froze over top of a softly thickened weal on Cassie's right shoulder.
Tess pulled her hand away and stared. "Oh my God, Cass," she whispered hoarsely. "What has he done to you?"
Under the inquiring touch of Tess's fingertips, an angry raised mound of fresh and tender scar tissue stood out. Clearly it was a miniature form of the powder horn depicted on the pirates' flag.
"He- he branded you?" Tess gasped.
A brand. The pirate captain's brand. Burned deeply into the soft flesh of Cassie's shoulder, it marked Cassid forever as his own. Tess swallowed hard as sudden waves of nausea threatened to expel a rush of bitter bile. Anger deeper than any she had ever known cascaded over her in a hot rush. Looking into Cassie's tear filled eyes, and seeing the intense anguish there, she clasped her sister hard to her chest.
"He will pay for whatever he has done to you!" she seethed.
"No-o-o," Cassie moaned. "He'll kill you if you try anything." Her eyes pleaded with Tess. "Save yourself if you can." She laid her own hand gently over the branded tissue. Her voice was barely a whisper. "I am doomed."
What an exciting book this sounds like! It should be very good. Now, where can readers find you?
Web page www.diannegreenlay.com ;
blog http://www.writeonthewaytosomewhere.blogspot.com ;
Facebook Group http://on.fb.me/kFmjca ;
book trailer http://youtu.be/HPltUhH-b2w ;
available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters/Indigo
Now about the giveaway:
To one randomly drawn commentator, Dianne will be giving a Quintspinner T shirt and $10 Amazon gift card. Please follow the tour and comment. The more you comment the better your chances of winning.
The tour dates can be found here: Goddess Fish Promotions
Thanks for being my guest, Dianne, and that you, readers, for stopping by!