Friday, June 27, 2014

Western Writers

Western Writers of America is one of my favorite writers conferences. I renew old friendships and rub elbows with some the best writers I know. Certainly some of the most profitable.

During our convention--which is in a different place every year--we learn a lot about the region or the state. The trip adds to our general knowledge about American history. This year we are in Sacramento, California. The State Railroad Museum is huge and takes the viewer through all aspects of building the vast coast to coast railroad system. Building these lines was a mammoth undertaking.The loss of life and limb was staggering.

There are stories in that museum. Some have already been written. Many more will emerge as a result of this trip. While we were here in Sacramento, my friends Larry and Kat Martin were honored by the California State senate because they had written so many fine books about the state.

Even though I see stories that could be told, I can't write about California. Even as an outsider. Because I'm not willing to devote the research time to understanding the state.

I stick to Kansas. There is a danger to sticking to what one knows. But I think a writer can go too far in the other direction too.

The best advice on research I've ever heard was given by the great historian Leland Sonnichsen. At a convention, he explained the difference in the work involved. He said to write a historical romance, one has to know just enough to get the setting right. To write a historical novel wherein events influence the plot and the actions of the characters, one has to have a great deal of knowledge about the history of a region. It requires a lot of general knowledge.

And to write an academic book that will make a contribution to scholarship--one should know everything there is to know.


Eileen Goudge said...

Good advice, Charlotte. I am currently reading your novel, DEADLY DESCENT, and you capture the region perfectly. Great story. Really enjoying it.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Thanks Eileen. My heart will always be in Kansas