“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” ― L.P. Hartley
Lately, I have been delving into some new (to me) history and preparing to start another writing project. Every time period has nuances, and it takes time to become acquainted with them. I find the quote above rings true. Things were done differently in the past. Think about it for a moment. Just ten years ago, were we not doing things differently than we are now? Time multiplies those differences. Dunnigan occurred in a setting almost a hundred years old. In order to write the story, I had to travel to a world that was distant. As I begin a new work, I am revisiting how best to do that.
One way to get there is by reading non-fiction works that address the period one wishes to examine. Presently I am doing just that. I may have more to say on that at a later time. I enjoy this part of the journey because I am a history nerd at heart. What might be tedious or boring to many is the lighting of a fuse to me. One bit of knowledge puts me on a trail I can follow wherever it may lead.
Another way of getting acquainted with a particular period is through newspapers. I received this tip when I started working on Dunnigan, and I must say I find it critical to my research and planning process. We now have vast archives that provide access to periodicals that may be hundreds of years old. They give invaluable insight into daily life for people who lived during the time. It can even provide details particular to a region– small things that might be missed by those looking through a wider lens.
Finally, one of the most informative and inspiring methods of getting in touch with the past is by looking at personal effects. They might include letters, photographs, journals, or anything else of the kind. Sometimes it is not only the photo but also the writing on it that can spark my imagination. You can tell if a photo was well loved and kept out and handy rather than in an album. It leads you to wonder what the story was behind it.
I could say many other things about traveling to that foreign country known as “The Past,” but that will have to do for now! This summer, I will be doing some research travels. I plan to keep you all posted. In the meantime, perhaps you are considering your own dive into the past. I wish you well. It can be a wonderful place to visit.