It occurs to me that most authors will tell you what books they are currently reading, but not the why of it. Perhaps they feel an explanation is unneeded or unwarranted. All right, I’ll give them that. Most readers might not care why authors select certain titles for their own pleasure reading…but as both reader and writer, I’ll admit I’m curious about the reading habits of my fellow authors. Why? Because I’m a Kat and we are curious by nature. *wink* – Actually, I think it gives honest and real insight into people. It’s also a great way to do secondary research.
Lately I’ve been going through a stage. Yes, at 47 years, I still have “stages.” These aren’t bad ones, but they are habit forming. The stage I am in lately is not being able to get enough of reading books set in a certain time period. Victorian to be exact. And not necessarily romances either. Romance need not apply, as a matter of fact, I’ve been looking on other shelves for my reading material. Mystery. Science Fiction. Mainstream. Just so long as it is set in Victorian times. Recently I finished reading two entirely different tales one found in the sci-fi section the other, though labeled mainstream, should have been put in the mystery section, though the reader is given the villains’ identities throughout most of the book. The first book is The Map of the Sky by Felix Palma, the second is The Yard by Alex Grecian. Loved them both and have recommended them to friends. I am not going to go into a review of either of them at this time, but let’s suffice it to say, both books are entertaining and kept me turning pages when I should have been sitting in front of the computer writing my own novels. What I will say is that these particulars books allow me to see how other authors are handling the time period.
Yep…that’s right. I have written in the late Victorian, early Edwardian period myself, but have set the books in either America (New York to be precise) or as alternate history/fantasy. However, I think reading any material set in the time will still give you the flavor of the era, no matter if it’s sci-fi as Palma wrote or more fact-based as Grecian writes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t do my research by only reading fiction novels set in a specific time period – I do read non-fiction works about the era in question. I think it’s important to balance the two while doing research. One is for the specifics, and the other as I said is for flavor. Reading fiction gives authors a chance to see how their peers and contemporaries handle certain situations. We have a choice to say, “Oh, I like that” or “Hmmm, I’d have done that differently.” And though I have read the works by authors who lived in the period (Dickens, Wells and Eliot) I do watch movie adaptations of novels by Edith Wharton and a few others. (I will admit Wharton is on my TBR list.) Again, it helps to bring the flavor of the time period to life. Social interactions and customs were completely different than they are in contemporary society. Language and slang have changed dramatically, even the very rights we take for granted have only come about for some of us in the last hundred and some odd years.
It wasn’t always pretty.
No. Not in the least. As a matter of fact, I’d say the majority of people lived hard and harsh lives back then. Only a small segment of society were able to afford anything beyond the necessities. I watched a documentary last week about the Triangle Shirt Factory fire and wanted to shake my fists to the heavens at the unfairness and tragedy of the event. These are the things as an author that make research real, visceral and profound. This is why it’s important to read material outside of our comfort zones or explore other media to give us the reality we might be lacking from a modern perspective.