Jane Austen was smart. When faced with a blank page and deciding what she was going to write, she chose to write about people in places and situations she lived herself and had easy access to. Perhaps that is simply what her muse inspired her to write about. I do wonder though if she wanted to write a historical but figured it was too hard to find information about ancient Egyptians or China in the 10th century. Or maybe she was intrigued by Americans or Spaniards but figured it wasn’t possible to jump on a ship to meet any! I mean, this was a pre-airline or internet time period and even a scholar like Mr. Austen could only acquire so many books for research, right? So she looked around and wisely wrote about what she knew.
As writers today we are fortunate. We can, in some cases, hop on a plane to visit the places that ignite our creative juices. If that fails we have the world at our fingertips via the web and books galore at the local library. We can write about any era, any place on earth or in the cosmos, and about any culture or people group we want without leaving the comfort of our recliner or ergo-desk chair. Very nice!
Lately, however, I have come to realize that this easy access to the wide world can be a detriment if one is not careful. I am so skilled at utilizing Google and my research books that I forgot to pull my eyes away from the glowing screen and look at other options, almost missing out on an awesome opportunity. Here is the story—
I am currently writing the saga of Dr. George Darcy (for those who do not know). He is a character I created within my previous novels, an uncle to Fitzwilliam Darcy who spent some 30 years in India before returning to England. Being given the opportunity to travel back to 1789 with George, meet the previous generation of Darcys, and then recount his adventures in India has been a fabulous experience. I am having a blast! It has also been an incredible challenge. Learning about medicine during this time, learning about the British East India Co. and their exploits, and learning about the Indian people and culture has been A LOT of work. I have bookmarks galore and a whole shelf of very big books. All of this has helped tremendously.
What I had not done was think about talking to actual Indian people!
Then, last October while at the airport returning from my trip to the JASNA AGM I ran into a doctor I worked with for years at the hospital in Fresno. It was great to see him and as we chatted I told him what I was writing, knowing it would intrigue him not only because he is a doctor but because he is also Indian! Being the great guy that he is, Dr. Rajani gave me his email and personal cell number, encouraging me to write any time if I had questions.
Did I do it? Well, no, not for a while. Partly that was because I had easy access to most of what I needed – thanks WWW – but also because I am too darned polite and did not want to bother him. I know! Silly, as it turned out. I finally broke down just a few weeks ago when I had a question on some Hindi translation that I could not pin down online. He answered instantly, sharing my queries with a friend of his who knows Hindi better than he. Immediately his friend wrote me back, a lady named Gita.
Now, here is where this tale gets really interesting and is the true learned lesson. As it turns out, Gita lives in my town just a few blocks away and is the wife of a local pediatrician. This pediatrician, Dr. Patel, was not only the doctor to my two kids for their entire lives but also is someone I worked with professionally for years at the hospital in the NICU!! I know!!!! His wife is not only fluent in Hindi and a couple other dialects, but is a phenomenal wealth of information on Indian culture. She is amazingly open and enthusiastic and has an office filled with books on everything Indian and Hindu, several of which are now on my desk. On top of that, Dr. Patel is a practitioner of Ayurveda medicine, which figures prominently in my novel. OMG! I am in heaven and only wish I had not wasted so much time. If I had not been hesitant to contact Dr. Rajani, or even given the matter a moments thought and called up Dr. Patel myself, I would have had months to absorb all they had to offer rather than accessing it when I have only a couple months before my looming deadline for completion.
So this is the lesson: Spread your gaze about and take advantage of everything you can. Be wise like Jane and access what is right in front of you. Don’t be shy! Obtaining information from real people is so much better than reading from a dry book. People are usually generous, especially when given a chance to help a writer. The image to the right, by the way, is some of my inspiration. This handsome man is wearing a gorgeous salwar kameez that is precisely what George would wear – and anyone familiar with my novels know exactly what I mean!
Now, on another note, as this blog posts today I am in Chicago at the Romantic Times Convention. Joining me are Karen Doornebos, Abigail Reynolds, C. Allyn Pierson, and Marilyn Brant. This Saturday, the 14th, we will be at the day-long FAN-Tastic event that is open to the public. If you live in the area it is not too late to pop in and be a part of the fun and meet us! Cost is $5 for the Giant Book Fair alone, or $50 for the entire day, which is full of events. The following are the ones we will be a part of specifically although we will be there the entire day milling around and would love to meet you!
For full information visit this link: RT Booklovers Convention FAN-Tastic Day
Giant Book Fair
11AM – 2PM
Where can you meet your favorite authors, get your pic taken with them or a cover model, or get a sneak preview to what’s coming out in the wonderful world of genre fiction? At the one and only RT Booklovers Convention Book Fair! Meet more than 350 authors at the book fair where you can purchase autographed copies of their latest books. For those bringing collectibles and “keeper” books, we have a system to separate these books for you, so as not to mistake them for new books! If you are not registered for the full RT Booklovers Convention you can purchase a $5 ticket at the door to attend just the book fair.
Jane Austen Happy Hour
3:45PM – 4:45PM
Love Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen … and like the occasional drink? Then this is the workshop for you! Pick up a little history about various alcoholic beverages from the Regency era, discover how to mix your own at home and find out how they relate to Jane Austen. After a brief presentation by your author-mixologists from the popular Austen Authors blog, you will be invited to each of our five tables to partake of a taste of history! Five different drinks to sample, drink recipe cards for everyone and a chance to win a basketful of Jane Austen-inspired books! Cheers!
Hosts: Marilyn Brant, Karen Doornebos, Sharon Lathan, C. Allyn Pierson, Abigail Reynolds
FAN-Tastic Day Party
6:15PM – 7:30PM
Meet a revolving door of hundreds of authors as they make appearances every 30 minutes in this high-energy event.
Address for the fun: Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel
9300 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Rosemont, Illinois, 60018