Monday, March 2, 2009

Guest Blogger Cara C. Putman

Please welcome our guest blogger today, Heartsong author Cara C. Putman:

Thanks so much for letting me come by the Edit Café, JoAnne and Rebecca. I love writing for Barbour and have one of the best editors in the business.

I am in the middle of a new series for Heartsong Presents: a World War II home front series set in Ohio. When JoAnne and I started talking about this series, I had one idea that had me excited. Nothing else. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The big zero. The only problem was one idea does not make a three-book series. So when JoAnne asked me if I had any other ideas, it was time to research.

I LOVE World War II history. To me there’s something romantic about that time. Maybe it’s because my grandparents lived then and I’ve always admired them. Maybe it’s the black and white movies and wonderful music. Maybe it’s the romance of good fighting evil. Whatever the cause, I can’t imagine writing historicals in another time period. So I knew I needed historical hooks for two more books, both set in Ohio, and both set during World War II.

The first step? I headed to the library for a stack of books. Since I live in Indiana, the library had a few history volumes on Ohio. There wasn’t much detail about World War II, but enough to give me a flavor.

Next step? Historical societies and museums in Ohio. Fortunately, many of these have websites now, which allows me to do a lot of “leg work” without leaving the comfort of my home office. Because I’m looking for state specific stories, I can zone in on regional or city resources as well. Once I pick up a trail on one of those sites, I can further search it out through general google searches, specific book searches, and contacting the museums themselves.

So how did this play out for the Ohio series? With a lot of prayer (God, please direct me to two more story ideas if this is a series I should propose…), I dove into my web research. When I got to the Dayton museum, I found links to a story about a research project done at a local company during World War II. This wasn’t just any project, but the second most-top-secret project of the War. One that involved Enigma, a project that has always fascinated me. Bingo! One story down.

Now where to find the next? Because I write homefront stories, I like to keep them focused on little known events that happened here in the states, while the attention of the world was focused overseas. I started thinking about stories I knew a bit about that interested me. I hit on the idea of the All American Girls Professional Softball/Baseball League. If you’ve seen A League of Their Own, you know as much about the league as I did before my research. While there wasn’t a team in Ohio, many of the players did come from Ohio. My last story idea!

Now I had three ideas that I was excited about and couldn’t wait to research. I also decided to make the series focus on siblings—something different from my Nebraska series.

So what do you do if you have the germ of an idea, but need more? Take that general idea and start your research. Look for traditional book resources, but don’t forget to look at what the local historical societies, libraries, and museums might have available. Their websites are often a first step, but don’t forget to go visit them too. I’ve found that curators and archivists love to share their research and hard-won stories with people as excited about the history as they are.

Then start outlining the book. See if you have enough of a historical hook to provide a strong setting and subplot. But as JoAnne often reminds me, don’t forget Heartsong Presents are romance first. I like to think of the history as the seasoning that makes the story unique and brings it to life.

The first book in Cara’s historical Ohio series for Heartsong Presents, A Promise Kept, will release to the club in June. Cara has offered an autographed copy, so leave a comment if you’d like to be entered in a drawing for it. Thanks for your insight, Cara, and thanks for your great idea to invite Barbour authors to be guest bloggers here at the Edit Cafe. Look for another fabulous Barbour author to visit us next Monday!


Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Cara,
Thanks for your post about historical research. It's exciting to dig through books and websites and fine that gem of an idea right there waiting for you. : )
Your new series sound wonderful. I will look forward to reading them!
carrie (at) turansky (dot) com

Mary Connealy said...

Hi CARA! Great article.

The series sound like great ideas. I can't wait.

raspberrygirl said...

I would love to win a copy of your book. I live in Ohio, so it would be a treat to see what you have written about and see if I know or have heard of the place(s).

ohiobuckeye91 [at] gmail [dot] com

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Cara, I really like the way you went about your research. It reminded me of a treasure hunt where you start at one point, follow all these different leads and find the treasure at the end. In your case, not only was the treasure the factual history but ideas for other stories.

Your series sounds fascinating.

anitamaedraper [at] hotmail [dot] com

Barbara said...

Your books sound so fascinating--plus thank you for sharing how you get the ideas and go about your research!

Rose said...

Hi Cara,

Great post. It interesting to find out how authors come up with their series ideas.


Cathy said...


It was interesting to see how this state trilogy idea came to be. I've always wondered how that worked.


cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

Cara Putman said...

Thanks, guys. It is a bit like a treasure hunt. I'll have to remember that analogy. And there's nothing like the excitement from finding an idea, and thinking I could write a book around this!

mez said...

Great interview with Cara. I would love to win her new book. Thanks!

Crystal Laine Miller said...

WWII always comes alive reading your books! I look forward to A Promise Kept. (and I'm already getting it, so no need for me in the drawing.)

I really liked how you outlined how you go about conducting your research--and how you take your passion for a simple idea and expand on it.

Love historical romance. Probably my favorite genre to read.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading some of her "Dreams" series!
I'd love to win this!rebornbutterfly [at] sbcglobal [dot] net

Blissful said...

I love WW II also; wrote Seneca Shadows which is set in that time period.

Collins said...

I can't wait to read the series!

Thanks for all the great tips on using local resources for historical research. I think sometimes I depend on my computer and forget all the history around me. Thanks for the reminder.