One of the great things about blogging is getting to introduce good friends and good books to all of you. In this post my friend, Kathy Cannon Wiechman, shares about some of the different ways she researches books.
Writing from the Inside Out. . . Kathy Cannon Wiechman shares
Clara’s theme of Writing from the Inside Out is a perfect description of the way I go about creating a story. I always write from inside my main character. The whole story is seen through that character’s eyes, even if I tell it in third person.
Since I write mostly historical fiction, I travel to a lot of historical sites to get the proper perspective of the places my character sees. Those places have changed over the years, so I also look at old photos and read descriptions from folks from the past.
If my character lives in a home that is totally made up, I draw a floor plan, so I can picture it clearly in my mind. For a character who lives on a farm, I draw a map of that farm. I know where the pig pen is, the cornfield, and the tallest oak tree on the place. If I want a story to feel real to a reader, it must first feel real for me.
I also try to replicate sounds from the time period: the jangle of a mule’s harness, the crack of a rifle shot, the blast of a steamboat whistle. I want to be able to see what the character sees, hear what he hears, smell what he smells, and feel what he feels. When I wrote Like a River, my search for the smell of black powder led me to a lesson on how to load and fire a muzzleloader.
When I worked on Empty Places, I was introduced to a 1928 Model A Ford. I eventually had a chance to drive the vehicle. What fun! Here’s the excerpt from the book, Empty Places:
"Just try. I'll tell ya when."
He disappeared behind the car, and I readied my foot on the clutch.
He yelled, “Now!"
I pressed the button on the parking brake, and moved the gear shift like Corky done showed me. I stretched out my leg to push on the gas. The engine made almost as much noise as Corky, who swore like the devil.
The writing begins when I can feel the character breathing inside me, when I can look down at that person’s hands and feet, feel what’s in the person’s pocket, and know that person’s fears, angers, and heartbreaks.
In Like a River, my character, Leander, has his arm amputated, so I talked to amputees. I learned about phantom pain from them. But I needed to know for myself how well Leander could swim when he had only one arm. My husband tied one of my arms behind my back and timed me while I swam that way. Surprisingly, I could swim almost as well with one arm as with two.
The biggest compliment I receive from readers of Like a River is, “I felt I was there with Leander and Polly.” That makes it worth going the extra steps to get inside those characters’ heads. And here’s hoping readers will feel the same way about Adabel Cutler in Empty Places.
Author: Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Publisher:Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills
Kirkus *Starred* Review: The stories of three teens intersect in the later years of the Civil War in this debut novel. Fifteen-year-old Leander Jordan runs off to war from Ohio to prove he's a man. "Working in the foundry wasn't something to admire, not like being a soldier in uniform, a soldier who'd risk his life facing enemy guns. Pa had to see he was doing a manly thing." But he lands in a Southern hospital, where he befriends Paul Settles, another young Union soldier, who tends to his wounds. When they're separated, Paul ends up in hellish Andersonville Prison, where smallpox, scurvy and hunger plague the prisoners. There, Paul's friendship with Given McGlade, a fellow prisoner and Leander's neighbor from back home, helps keep them both alive. Though the prose is a bit florid early on, the stories are effectively related in twinned third-person narrative, and Wiechman's abundant research is unobtrusively folded into the tale. An excellent author's note provides further information about the times. Though the horrors of Andersonville and various Civil War-era events such as the Battle of Atlanta, Lincoln's assassination and the explosion of the steamboat Sultana provide wartime context, it's the secrets woven into the well-paced tale that will pull readers eagerly to the tearful conclusion. A superb Civil War tale of friendship, loyalty and what it means to be a man. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 9-14)
Learn more about Kathy and her books by visiting her website: http://kathycannonwiechman.com
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Thanks for dropping by for the BOOK BIRTHDAY for EMPTY PLACES!!! And thank you so much, dear friends, for sharing a few words of your own. The winner will be announced on Saturday, April 23rd.