Friday, May 30, 2014

Research A-ha Moments

Have you ever spent hours upon hours of research for a book you're writing? Maybe even begrudgingly? I just want to write! Why do I need to stop and research? Even for just a single sentence?

I spoke with a library friend of mine and she said how beautiful my book will be for it. I am careful not to write in gross detail in the work as it is background knowledge, but shines through the dialogue, mentioned casually in setting as well as description.

For Musketeer's Daughter, I have spent over 10 hours on research during King Henri IV of France's reign from his favorite castle of residence to fashion, food, and weather. Castles undergo lots of construction and rebuilding as well as tearing down and sometimes it's difficult to find out just how and what and when!

Here are some discoveries I have made:

Below is the famous horse shoe staircase of Chateau de Fontainebleau during Henri IV of France's reign. The drawing was done before 1610, while the photograph of the same castle happens to be of the staircase after his son, Louis XIII, had them reconstructed (how they are today).





Something that I learned during my studies is that King Henri (reigned 1553-1610) commissioned a floating garden in the castle's fishing lake. Can you see it below in the the illustration? There are only a few illustrations of this garden via bird's eye view like the one below. But somehow, it mysteriously vanished in a few years' later illustration (Jacques Androuet de Cerceau in 1570--not too long after).




So where did it go in such a few short years?

In the modern illustrations as well as photographs, the garden is not there. I was disappointed to see it missing and wondered what had happened to it. I spent several hours more trying to unearth a record on where it went. Well, I never found such information, but a closer look via satellite showed much to my shock!



Do you see it right there (below), beneath the Lake? Yes, it sank!




Still, after discovering where it went and how, I could not find anything about it. Surely the people were scared that something so solid and well-used had sunk right before their eyes? Maybe someone had it destroyed because it was too dangerous or was just spiteful, and thought it not worth recording? Who knows... There is more out there and wish I could find the records.

What sort of interesting facts have you found while researching?

10 comments:

  1. I enjoy the research, Elizabeth, and knowing some of these background things do make writing more fun. Dorothy Dunnett, who wrote a couple of great series (the Lymond series and the Niccolo series set in the 15-16 centuries I think. Research made her books fantastic. I think your library friend is right.
    Thanks for sharing that interesting information - the sunken garden. There could be intrigue there.

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    1. I marvel at how writers can weave in history like that, and even moreso with all the research done! Thanks for your thoughts! :D

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  2. That is so cool. The garden is still there!

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    1. Interesting, isn't it? You'd think that they'd have some kind of report as to the King's garden sinking. Ugh...

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  3. I had to do a few bits of research for Tiamat's Nest. Firstly, to find out roughly what Greenland would look like without its ice cap (it should have a large inland sea), and secondly how far away do you need to be to survive a kiloton nuclear explosion. Sci-fi adventure is such fun :)

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    1. Oh, wow. I'm so curious what you came up with! I need to look for your book and see! Thanks! :)

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  4. I think research is necessary, absolutely necessary! Then, it is the writer's ability that makes it look like it's flowing naturally into a dialogue or a description.
    I also think that research is very enriching at a personal level.
    Very interesting post!

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    1. So right you are! Also digging deep into your experiences and weaving those in. Thank you!

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  5. Wow, Elizabeth! What an interesting discovery you have made! I wonder if you should report it to some sort of historian or something.

    I used to live in France and actually have visited Fontainebleau. I don't remember much if it, though. Sadly, the thing I remember the most about it is the lack of restrooms in the woods around there. I was freaked out when my French friends advised me not to use the outhouse because of the spiders and such. They said to go "dans la nature" which basically means to just pee in the woods. I would prefer to have remembered the castle instead of that incident.

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  6. For the historian, that would be lovely! Now to find me one... ;D

    How interesting and sad at the same time your experience at Fontainebleau! I had no idea about the restrooms...did you ever go "dans la nature" after all?

    I know I spent hours and hours researching for its secret passages and doors, but couldn't find any but for the movie of The Man in the Iron Mask--that was fascinating to watch!

    Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm devouring it up! xD

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