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READ POST FIRST!
Jill “Pearl” Barnett
I love to research. I went back to college in my early 30s with the full intention of getting an accounting degree–far, far away from the art degree I was going for the first time. But what happened? I headed straight for the humanities…again. This time? History. But since I studied economic history I guess I combined them both.
When we lived in the SF Bay Area, I went to Stanford’s main library, sometimes every day for a few weeks, going through their books, especially the goldmine of 19th century books in their archive room. The room was like a turret in the old wood-beamed roof of the main library building. It was cursed with a low ceiling. In some sections I couldn’t stand up straight, and I’m 5’7″. They had old chipped oak library tables shoved over beneath the scant few tiny windows, and small, old, very hard oak chairs, but the books? Oh, the books! Descriptions of first-hand accounts of the roads to London, of parties, balls, of streets, theaters, and personal diaries and more from 1810, 1785, 1825, of Great Britain, France and the U.S. More books full of information than I could ever imagine finding.
They allowed photocopying of the archives in those days and I spent days copying the best of the books for my home library. Eventually, they updated and the turret room was gone and modern motorized bookshelves held some of the books. Many books just disappeared. I greatly disliked the motorized shelves because I was always afraid they would close with me squashed between subjects like the History of Wool and Silk to Weevils In Medieval Flour Mills. My husband would have said I died happy because I was surrounded by research books.
I remember when I was reading about 13th century Wales and England for the WONDEREFUL, WILD and WICKED Trilogy, I read about how they would fill pig bladders with sand and water and use them as balls. In my mind I saw pig bladders and water, and thought, so if my heroine went high enough into the tower, she could drop the water-filled pig bladders. From so high up, they had to break. I then had Sofia’s Medieval water balloons. The best scenes come from actual research, events and honest details, no matter how ridiculous you might think they are.
How do I find the best books? By sitting on the floor of the section I’m researching and rummaging through every book and then through those books’ bibliographies of resources. I found a real gem that way, a book I adore and I’ve used in my more recent and upcoming books: Daily Living In The Twelfth Century, based on the observations of Alexander Neckam in London and Paris, by Urban Tignor Holmes, Jr. (See my photo where you can see all my colorful flags.) Neckam was a teacher and monk, who walked to London and then traveled to Paris, giving detailed descriptions of everything from the food sellers on the streets to the horse auctions and all the different people and their comings and goings and daily antics within the city walls, like the sailors betting and racing across the staves (large oars) on ships moored in the Thames. Many fell into the water. This book cost me twelve dollars from a bookseller on Amazon, but it’s worth diamonds, pearls, and gold to me.
You can learn more about my books on my Facebook page.
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