Friday, March 24, 2017

Historical Fiction Hints

An American woman is captured by Barbary pirates and sold to the Visier of Morocco, escaped to Gibraltar and returned to Florida. She had a grandson, David Levy Yulee, who became Florida’s first Senator. This sounds like complete fiction, doesn’t it?

But it's not. The Shadow of the Rock by Author Eileen Haavik McIntire is based on a real women’s life. Speaking recently about historical research, she used examples of what she did for this historical fiction.

Eileen learned early that her main character was Jewish, which led to other areas of research.  She verified that her character was a real person and about the influence this woman’s family had on Florida history.

Research is a creative process that requires imagination and persistence. You can start with libraries and Google, check bibliographies and indexes, maps and books about your subject or area.

Local historians and cemeteries are helpful and interviews with people in the area of interest. Also seek out related subjects that might her you develop scenes and atmosphere such as costume design books, memoirs, etc.

Eileen found old books from around the time her character lived and discovered helpful information in them about the culture, dress, and what was happening in the world at this time.

Travel if possible, she recommended. Her research took her to Gibraltar, Morocco, St. Thomas, Florida and other areas. She rode a camel in the Sahara. She toured the frigate Constellation in the Baltimore Harbor. Places she visited often became scenes in her books.

She recorded a lot of detail and background information she was able to use in her story and in another book, In Rembrandt's Shadow.

Like Eileen you may amass a huge amount of information for a book. But remember not to use it all. You don’t want an information dump. Writing is a matter of choices. The most important thing is to write a good story that people will want to read.

Eileen also writes a mystery series, The 90s Club. A few years ago, I enjoyed reading The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase. Now I look forward to more of Nancy Dickerson and her friends in the 90s Club at Whisperwood Retirement Village.

Eileen McIntire currently is President of Maryland Writers’ Association. She also is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Independent Book Publishers Association.

If you want more information about Eileen and her books, check out Also, if you are interested in writing or reading more books by area writers information can be found at

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