History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

23 March 2011

Through the Internet Looking Glass

I'm in the process of updating my website with the help of my good friend and wonderful web designer Greg for the release of Vienna Waltz and the Kindle release of The Mask of Night. As I blogged about a while ago on my own website, websites are becoming seen as more and more essential for writers. And that writers are using websites not just as static promotional pieces but as a dynamic way to engage in a dialogue with readers and to expand the world of their story beyond the pages of the book itself.

One of the things I love about my website is the way it allows me to play in Charles & Mélanie’s/Malcolm & Suzanne's world every week. Besides blogging, each week I post a letter in what I call the Fraser Correspondence. These are letters between the characters from various points before, during, and between the books. I can explore events that happened in the past or “off camera” or get the POV of a minor character or even an historical figure on the action of one of the books. While I was writing Vienna Waltz, I could weave my research into the letters each week. Some bits in the letters, such as Malcolm's thoughts on Talleyrand's behavior at a key meeting, found their way directly into the book. I did the same thing with the research for the Waterloo book I just turned in to my editor. I love talking to readers through my blog about my books and other books and book-related topics. Choosing pictures for the Gallery lets me showcase settings from the books and Charles & Mélanie's/Malcolm & Suzanne’s world in general.

I know so many writers who use their websites in creative ways to explore the world of their novels. Lauren has a fabulous, highly interactive website with a Behind the Scenes section, Outtakes, and Historical Links. Candice Hern has a Regency World section filled with fascinating Regency historical information, Collections that showcase Regency clothing and accessories from her own collection, a Regency Glossary, and Discussion Boards. Veronica Wolff has a Gallery, with photos of the settings of her books and her own writing life. Monica McCarty has a Special Features section that she describes as “like extras on a DVD.” It includes Cut Scenes from her books, a Picture Book, a Timeline, a Glossary, and other great fiction that bring to life the sixteenth-century Scotland of her books.

All of these features allow the authors to enrich the world of the books and sometimes embellish or continue the story beyond the novel (as a story I heard on NPR pointed out, a novel has a beginning, middle, and end, but websites allow the author to play with the story and character in myriad directions). What features on authors’ website do you particularly enjoy? What are the implications of websites for the ways authors tell stories and readers respond to them?

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Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I love extra bits of history, behind the scene pages, or a display of expertise. I’m having to start over with a new website for Izzy, and I’m trying to decide if I should re-do some of the pages from Kalen Hughes or just link to them . . . I’m hesitant to take them down, because I know lots of people have linked to them and even more have bookmarked them.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love behind the scenes and historical extras too, Isobel, and your fashion ones are wonderful. I wouldn't take them down, because as you say of the people who have bookmarked them and linked to them. I'd either link from Izzy's site or have parallel pages on both sites.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I think at first it's going to be links, but then slowly, as I have time, I'll start re-doing them for the new site. I feel bad cutting off people's links, but I don't want the expensive of maintaining the full KH site forever and ever either.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

That makes sense--it you give people with links plenty of warning they can migrate to the new site.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

I'm starting a new series, which deals with a very different set of topics. I've done some of the items mentioned above (deleted scenes, images, and timeline). But for this one, I'm considering adding key historical documents (either links or verbatim) and other research material. I think it will wind up being a microcosm of this period, anyway, so I might as well add the text. (Which is all copyright-free!)

7:12 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Very cool to add historical document, Diane! I was thinking that paradoxically, something as modern as the internet is particularly good for historical novelists, because it lets us bring the world of our books to life.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

If you want to do a syllabus for the book, links to primary sources on Google Books could be cool. My friends are after me to do footnotes for the books. I told them if they highlight words and concepts, I'll do it!

8:37 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I am SO making notes on all of this! I have a website up, but it is very basic. I want to do more, but I am no longer in contact with the person who set up my site.

I love all of the extras and consult them constantly. I would love to do a page about opera and opera singers during the Regency.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Very cool idea about links to Google Books, Isobel! I have a reading list following the Vienna Waltz Historical Notes, but no links at present.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Oh, Louisa, please do a page about Regency opera and singers! What a fabulous resource! You should be able to find someone who can update your existing site for you.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I love all the behind the scenes and backstory elements that go beyond the book, or bits that delve into the author's research for the book and provide context (like tidbits about the costume, the cuisine, or the mores of the era).

That said, I have become so overwhelmed with publishing deadlines for the past several months (as well as the upcoming months) with three books coming out this year and three manuscripts due this year as well, that I wish I were able to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to my own website and even my own blogs.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

It's so hard, Leslie. I constantly feel I'm shorter changing either h website or my book (I do weekly updates, which are fun but time consuming). I try ti make the updates and blogs things that help me with my writing, and I find the reader interaction very energizing. And my friend Greg won doesmh website makes is very easy.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I'm so glad to hear that we're all crazed and stressed out, LOL! It's good to know I'm not alone.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

And now they want me on Twitter. *sigh*

1:01 PM  
Blogger Dtchycat said...

I like the extra pieces of history that an author puts on their webpages - even if it has absolutely nothing to do with anything they are or have written - just bits and pieces of things they have found in their own research that they wanted to share with readers.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love those historical bits and pieces too! And for a writer, it's great to have a place to share fascinating research that didn't fit into the book!

9:07 PM  

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