Historical Fiction-Research versus Writing

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This is a screenshot of the first chapter of my current Work in Progress (WIP for writers in the know). As you can see, there’s a lot of details to be filled in. I’m writing a scene where one of my characters, Alouette, comes back from flying her plane to find that the war has began.

The writing process is very different from the research process, so I try to separate them the best I can. Interrupting the flow of words (or as I say, the voices in my head) is one of the worst things you can do, as my husband can now attest to. After a few false starts, he (and my kids- most of the time) now know to wait until my fingers pause in their typing before they come into my office.

I write scenes when inspiration strikes, and when insight is not exactly forthcoming, I use that time to study up- clearly WWI aviation is a weak point. And Alouette, real name Marthe Richer (I had to go with the French version of her spy name as I have another Martha as a main character) is a pilot.

My problem is that I often find myself researching way too in depth- getting lost in history, if you will, which is amazingly interesting but not necessarily productive as far as that WIP goes. However, I’ve decided to share some of these interesting tidbits via this blog (without it interfering too much with that WIP, wink, wink).

Do you have problems with research versus writing or just love learning interesting facts about historical figures? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

Why are women spies so hard to find for WWI?

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I’m excited to announce that I’m about settled on the women I’ll be focusing on for the third novel in my Women Spy Series.  But the research was much more difficult then for the Revolutionary or Civil wars. Why? I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that spying was not a revered position. In the days before James Bond, spying was looked at as deceitful- something only a duplicitous individual would do. Many of the people who acted in secret to gain knowledge of troop movements or enemy plans never admitted to it after the war. Take Robert Townsend, for instance, one of the main characters in 355: The Women of Washington’s Spy Ring. He managed to keep his identity as Culper Jr., one of General Washington’s chief spies, secret for over 150 years! To this day, we still don’t know whom his counterpart, Abraham Woodhull, aka Culper Sr., referred to when he spoke of a 355 (lady) of his acquaintance who could “outwit them all.”

The autobiographies of self-proclaimed spies who operated during the Civil War, such as Belle Boyd, Loreta Velasquez, and Allan Pinkerton, are known to be fictionally enhanced, or, in the case of Loreta, mostly fabricated. A rash of them were published in the decade after the war and are still readily available today. Loreta freely admitted to publishing hers in order to seek money for her son and Belle’s came out soon after she admitted to being bankrupt. Allan Pinkerton went on to write a series of detective novels following the publication of his “true history” of the rebellion. Money was one factor in the race to publish spy memoirs, but I think I should also mention that women who were caught in the act during the Civil War got off rather lightly: although Belle, Loreta, and Hattie Lewis Lawton were jailed, they were never hung.

Women arrested during the First Great War were another matter, however, The most famous women secret agents—Mata Hari and Edith Cavill—were both shot by firing squads. It’s no wonder that many women were not forthcoming about the role they played in the war. Many of the autobiographies from that time period are now out of print, their authors long forgotten. I’m going to have to do some serious digging/ shelling out a lot of dough to get my hands on these books. Not to mention that two of my favorite contenders are both named Martha and another’s also begins with the letter M- I’m going to have to think hard about how to make their names less confusing for the reader.

Stay tuned for more information about women spies during World War 1!

Underground Now Available!

Underground, the second book in the Women Spy Series, is on sale now! Get your copy for 99 cents!

Praise for Underground: Traitors and Spies in Lincoln’s War

  • The descriptions are so real, bringing me right into the scene. Brilliantly done!”
  • “Very well researched and written”

Check out Kit’s speech on the how the women of the Pinkerton agency helped save Lincoln’s life!