News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (; author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

Researching for the "Real World" vs Fantasy

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In switching from fantasy to romance, there have been a few elements that surprised me a little.

One is the type of research I've been doing.

Even when researching for a fantasy novel, I tend to lean on information from our own world. When writing The Mist-Torn Witches series, I could have made up my own names for all the herbs and the manner in which salves and medicines were created/mixed. But I felt it would ring more true, even in fantasy, to lean our own medieval history. Many historians agree that medieval monks knew a good deal more about healing than physicians of the era. This book, Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden, proved indispensible. It's well laid out, and it covers herbs from A-Z.

But when it comes to many elements of a fantasy novel, the writer needs to depend upon his/her own imagination.

So... I recently decided to try my hand at romance novels. For the first book, Alone with a Soldier, I found myself researching a good deal about American soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Some of that was tough to read.

For my most recent novel, Alone with a Thief, I found myself in new territory... the male protagonist is a mechanic who has worked with collectible cars. I grew up out in the country with men constantly working on cars, but I'm now an academic and a writer, and I found myself doing a LOT of research. Here, I actually found Internet searches more useful because I needed information that was very up-to-date, such as, "What is currently the most sought-after collectible antique truck?" 

I also did some research on the types of training that mechanics working on new cars need to undergo in contemporary America--as the work they do now is quite different from what my father and grandfather did.

It has been interesting.

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