It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome back M W Arnold to Linda’s Book Bag today to celebrate his latest book Wild Blue Yonder with a guest post all about research for historical novels. Mick is such a generous author and a great writer and I’d like to thank Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this blog blitz.
You’ll find what happened when previously I stayed in with Mick alongside my review of the first novel in the Broken Wings series, A Wing and a Prayer, here.
Wild Blue Yonder
Wild Blue Yonder
Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Doris Winter is accused of stealing a valuable item from a famous Hollywood movie star, now a captain in the US Army Air Corps, after a dance at the air base in England where he’s stationed. Gathering her close friends together, she’s determined to clear her name.
Ruth’s POW son suffers a life-changing injury just as her own cottage takes damage in an air raid and Penny’s estranged little sister unexpectedly turns up, having run away from school. Together with the ongoing thefts of items of clothing and surprise personal revelations, these all threaten to hamper their investigation.
In spite of the worsening war situation, they must band together to rise above their troubles and prove love and friendship is worth fighting for.
A Guest Post by M W Arnold
One wee word, but its potential for making or breaking a book is immense, especially, at least in my experience, for a historical story. I try and remember now I’m writing in this genre that there’s always going to be at least one person out there who is ready to pounce on any mistakes I make.
I hadn’t planned upon writing my first World War Two saga, it kind of happened. I’d had a romantic/drama published back in 2017 and then decided to become ill. By the time I was recovered, I felt the need to start writing something new, something different. A very good writing friend of mine, Elaine Everest, made that suggestion. I’ve always loved history and after watching a documentary on the Spitfire Girls, I found myself investigating this mysterious organisation called, the Air Transport Auxiliary. To say I was astounded by what they accomplished and how they went about it, would be to put it mildly. The internet is a boom to writers and never more so than during what we are just coming out of. Through this, I discovered a wealth of material from which I could craft a good few dozen books, if I could clone myself.
However, it’s one thing finding the material, quite another putting it to good use. World War Two is so well documented that you cannot get event in the wrong order, as it stands out a mile. The clothes you describe have to be authentic to what could be worn during the war. Don’t forget, in wartime Britain, virtually everything was rationed, including clothing, so you can’t have someone decide to pop into Harrods and buy a bespoke satin cocktail dress. Believe me, I know, as I’d written just such a scene and was very pleased with how it came out before that thought hit me. Hence, research. This revealed that Harrods chiefly made uniforms.
Which brings me onto contacts, by the backdoor. You may be surprised at how long some institutions have been around and how easy it is to contact them these days, as most have an online presence and hence, an email address or online form. I emailed Harrods and was soon into a great email conversation with their very helpful ‘History of Harrods’ department. I’m afraid I don’t have the lady I was chatting with name handy, but she couldn’t be more helpful with checking facts with me, what was and was not possible, that kind of thing. I dare say I could have re-written the scene without her help, but to have the facts from the (next best thing to the) horse’s mouth was so useful. Plus, she told me to feel free to contact her again whenever I need her.
That’s a very important thing to remember whenever you initiate contact with someone you want something out of. Be polite. You must take into account that they are almost certainly at work and would need to take time out of their day to find out what you wish to know. It’s entirely up to them whether they reply, let alone use their time to find out the information you wish to know. If they come back with a ‘no’, you should reply thanking them for their time. Politeness costs nothing.
I’ve made quite a few contacts during writing these sagas and without them the books would have been much harder to write. There’s a Police Inspector in Portsmouth who’s been invaluable in all three books so far written.
Even when I think I’ve written a scene correctly, it still needs to be checked for authenticity, as the misuse of a single word can spoil everything. On this subject, I mentioned internet research earlier, but there’s nothing like having a relevant book to hand. I have thesaurus’s, dictionaries, even baby name books, but if you looked at my book shelves, you’d find books on the Black Market, Airfields of Great Britain in the war, the 1940’s house and housewife and probably 90% of the books written by and about the Air Transport Auxiliary. I can spend all day reading and call it research! This is also a great excuse to watch my Lady Wife’s enormous collection of films about World War Two!
I’ll finish on this note – if there’s one thing I’ve discovered from my research about the war, it’s that the British always made time for a cup of tea.
This tea drinker thinks that’s the perfect place to end! Thanks so much for such an insightful guest post Mick.
About M W Arnold
Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. He’s replaced it somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.
He’s the proud keeper of two cats bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Wild Blue Yonder is the second novel in his Broken Wings series and he is very proud to be a part of the Vintage Rose Garden at The Wild Rose Press.
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