I recently received an email from a reader (she knows who she is. *g*) saying she was reading and enjoying LASSO THE MOON. She mentioned how she'd been transported back in time and that I must have done a lot of research. Later she emailed, admitting she doesn't usually go for period pieces, but had finished LASSO THE MOON and loved it. Obviously, I'm thrilled!
Not too long ago, my publisher sent me a few emails from readers who had written to say they don't normally like westerns, but had a blast reading LTM. That made me feel like a million bucks, let me tell you. Converting my contemporary fans wasn't as hard as I'd feared.
The trick, I think, is to weave in enough research to give the reader a feel for the period without overloading them with historical facts or details. In any era, that would be called: info dump. Or TMI. Too much information. Note, I'm talking about historical romance, not historical fiction. Two different animals. A romance reader is more interested in the developing relationship than knowing 'specifically' how soap was made in the 1800s. Finding a balance is sometimes hard. I just trimmed a section I wrote in ROMANCING THE WEST about the Desert Land Act. I'd included details that didn't really advance my story. All the reader really needs to know is that President Hayes tried to encourage economic development in the arid west. That tidbit matters. Although the research for my western books is time consuming, I really do enjoy it. Part of the fun is learning the slang. In a book called Cowboy Slang by Edgar R. "Frosty" Potter, I came across this colorful cowboy saying referring to someone who's a mite talkative.
He was "Usin' big four-letter words as nobody could savvy without an encyclopedia an' two dictionaries."
And what about this one? "Used language so polished ya could skate on it."
I love that stuff! Anyway, for those keeping score I'm currently working on my second western and the story is finally clicking so my mood is good. The only reason it's moving as slow as it is... the research. I have an entire shelf of books on the wild west and life in the 1800s, but stacked on my desk right now? Cowboy Lingo, Roadside History of Arizona, The Gunfighters, Country Folk Medicine, Horses, Cowboy Slang, Everyday Life in the Wild West, Everyday Life in the 1800s, Arizona-1878 (info on flora, population, stage coach lines, etc.), Websters Dictionary, and Roget's International Thesaurus.
What's currently on your desk?