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Today my guest is Beck Martinez
The Joy of Research – Becky Martinez
Recently I had the opportunity to combine two of my favorite things – traveling and researching. An out-of-town trip to a cousin’s wedding gave me the opportunity to visit a location where I could make some first-hand observations for a romance I am writing that is set in the Old West. As I later wrote in a Facebook entry, Research and Romance, what could be more fun?
The wedding was held in historic Old Bent’s Fort, a re-creation of the trading post originally built-in the 1830’s by brothers Charles and William Bent along the Santa Fe Trail. Located near the Arkansas River, which was then the border with Mexico, for years it played a major role in trade. The fort was eventually burned down and moved, but in 1976, work began on reconstruction. Today it’s a wonderful replica of the old fort, complete with authentic rooms, barns and dining areas. It’s an excellent way to get a feel for the experience of what life might have been like in those old days. Guides dressed in authentic costumes wander around the fort, telling stories of those old days.
What I learned that day for my story was something valuable beyond just a lesson in how to make adobe bricks or how the pioneers sharpened tools or collected water. For a time I felt like I was transported back in time, touching the furs, smelling the wood burning in the old fireplace, even touching the straw used for those new adobe bricks. Standing outside in the late afternoon sun, listening to the whisper of the wind in the trees, I could almost imagine what it might have been like to be one of those pioneer women at the fort, relaxing for a time at the end of a long journey, smelling the wood burning in the camp fires.
After a few minutes I decided the thought was sort of silly, since they were facing an unknown future, and I just had to get in my car and drive off, but one of the books I bought that day at the Fort was “Land of Enchantment” a memoir dictated by Marian Russell who told of her travels along the Santa Fe Trail. One passage really struck me. “It is in the little incidents of life that the interests of existence really lies,” she wrote in her book, and it occurred to that is what we are writing about in our current books.
Conducting research for writing has always been a particular joy for me, but like so many writers, it is often tough to mix the two. How do you quit researching to start writing? What happens if you realize you haven’t researched enough? What’s the right way to research? I received so many warnings about getting caught up in research when I first started out, and for a time I did find myself caught in that old trap of wanting to learn so much about a subject that I forgot to write. (or I used the need to research as a way to postpone having to sit down and compose that story)
As a TV journalist I always had to do some research on any given story, but time constraints always kept me honest. There came a time when you had to sit down and write it or the story wasn’t going to get on the air. My first job in television was as a researcher for a documentary unit. Doesn’t that sound like a dream job for a beginner? I had visions of spending every day poring over books of information. Well, yes, it was fun. My first documentary was on Denver ballet and the performance of “The Nutcracker,” so I got to watch rehearsals and talk to dancers and the company directors. Wonderful fun! My next project was on the future of Colorado so I spent long hours with census books and studying traffic projections. Long columns of numbers were not my idea of a good time, but in both cases, I was learning – the research was valuable but it wasn’t the end product.
The real joy came from seeing all that information appear in final form – in telling those “little incidents of life,” as Marian Russell said of her travels over the Santa Fe Trail. And that is the final joy I will have as I construct my story about a family who settles on the plains near Bent’s Old Fort.
Becky Martinez is an award-winning former broadcast journalist who writes romance, mystery and romantic suspense. Her latest work, a short story, “One More Romance” was published in the anthology, Sealed with Love. Her last mystery novel, Blues at 11, was published by The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on a historical romance set in 1880’s southern Colorado.
She also teaches writing classes and has co-authored two books on writing with Sue Viders, Let’s Write a Story – Seven Ways to Plot, and Creating Memorable Characters. Both are currently available on Amazon.com.
Thank you Becky for this peek into the past and having fun doing research, one of my favorite things to do.
Reminder: My November book giveaway starts today. Please share this post on your sm and ask your friends to stop by and sign up. . https://www.JeanJacobsen.com One lucky winner will receive my historical romance, The Reluctant Debutante in eBook format and a paperback copy of A change of Fortune by Colorado author Jen Turano. (U.S. only). This was Jen’s debut novel with Bethany House a few years ago. She is a romance writer too. You’ll enjoy this 20th century story of a young lady who has to fight to regain her fortune and change her future.
Until next time, happy reading and writing.