How to Research Your Story before Writing Your Book
by JDR Hawkins
Because I write historical fiction, I base my stories on actual events. After I completed writing A Beckoning Hellfire, which is the first book in the “Renegade Series,” I learned that there is an enormous Civil War subculture out there. I had no idea how immense it was until I started doing book signings. Not only are there avid Civil War fans in the South, but they are all over the U.S. In fact, they are all over the world! My book was #4 in Australia and #2 in Japan. A lot of Civil War enthusiasts are hobbyists as well, so they know their facts. I’ve learned that, as a Civil War author, I have to get my facts straight, because if I don’t, those Civil War buffs will let me know about it!
To begin my research, I started with a plot that was based on fact: that of the Confederate cavalry. I decided that my main character, David Summers, would join up with the Army of Northern Virginia instead of enlisting with a closer unit, even though he is from Alabama. His commanding officer is the flamboyant J. E. B. Stuart who, in reality, was a fascinating general. His personality was so colorful that he fit perfectly as a character into my novel. I learned that General Stuart and his horse soldiers were engaged in the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil – Brandy Station – and that they fought at Gettysburg, where their opponent was none other than General George Custer, who later met his demise at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Once I outlined the plot for each book, I researched every aspect by looking online, visiting the library, finding old soldiers’ memoirs, and contacting historical societies and experts. It was intriguing to dig up old facts, some of which had nearly been lost to history, and incorporate them into my stories.
A Beckoning Hellfire led to two more sequels, and then I went back and wrote the prequel to the “Renegade Series,” which is entitled A Beautiful Glittering Lie. This book starts at the very beginning of the war. North Alabama did not want to secede from the Union, so I researched what took place in that region, as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ first inauguration speech in Montgomery. A Beautiful Glittering Lie is based on the journal of R. T. Cole, who fought with the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Not only did I conduct research to find Mr. Cole’s accounts, but I also searched out everything I could find about the 4th Alabama, which is the regiment that David’s father enlists with. I also looked up accounts of quotes that the officers and soldiers said, and used them in my novels. By the time I accumulated all of my information, I had a solid story that was believable and based on factual evidence.
This book received an honorable mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival.
This book was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
In the spring of 1861, a country once united is fractured by war. Half of America fights for the Confederate cause; the other, for unification. Rebel forces have already seized Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, a new Confederate president has been elected, and the Constitution has been revised. In northern Alabama, a farmer and father of three decides to enlist. For Hiram Summers, it is the end of everything he has ever known.
After Hiram travels to Virginia with the Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment, he is quickly thrust into combat. His son, David, who must stay behind, searches for adventure at home by traipsing to Huntsville with his best friend, Jake Kimball, to scrutinize invading Yankees. Meanwhile, Caroline—Hiram’s wife and David’s mother—struggles to keep up with the farm as her world revolves around the letters she receives from her husband, whom she misses dearly. As Hiram and his son discover the true meaning of war, they soon realize that their choices have torn their family apart.
In this historical tale, the naïveté of a young country is tested, a father sacrifices everything to defend his home, and a young man longs for adventure—regardless of the perilous cost.
Civil war tore families apart, and many of those families fought to stay together every step of the way. “A Beautiful Glittering Lie” is a novel of the American Civil War, as J.D.R. Hawkins writes of the Summers family and the rift the war brought to their family. Drawing on her heritage to tell the tale, Hawkins presents an insightful and riveting read of a family at war. “A Beautiful Glittering Lie” is a strong pick for historical fiction collections. Able Greenspan- Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Civil war tore families apart, and many of those families fought to stay together every step of the way. “A Beautiful Glittering Lie” is a novel of the American Civil War, as J.D.R. Hawkins writes of the Summers family and the rift the war brought to their family. Drawing on her heritage to tell the tale, Hawkins presents an insightful and riveting read of a family at war. “A Beautiful Glittering Lie” is a strong pick for historical fiction collections.
Greenspan’s Bookshelf – Able Greenspan- Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
We are so proud to announce that A Beautiful Glittering Lie: A Novel of the Civil War by J. D. R. Hawkins is a 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. This assures readers that this is a book well worth their time and money! – G. Indiebrag
This is a very good book! From first to last, it was exciting and thoughtful, raising important questions about the effect of war not just on the nation but on regular people.
The historical quotes and history are intertwined well into the fictional plot, and the horror of battle is well represented. The violence is not gratuitous but rather an essential part of the theme.
The book is well plotted and the narrative moves along at a satisfying pace. The reader is treated to a history lesson of the Civil War through the eyes of common folk.
I would certainly look forward to the sequel – Writers Digest
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG13
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