Monday, March 21, 2011
Guest Blog: Gwyn Ramsey
I'm very pleased to have author Gwyn Ramsey with me this evening to talk about writing. As everyone has heard me say before, research is key to great fiction so for the last few blogs, I've been concentrating on that and asking other writers about the research they've done for their books. Gwen was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her career and writing.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?
I decided in 2000 to become a writer. I walked into the front room one night and announced to my husband that I was going to write a book. But it took me three years of research and learning the writing process in order to finish my first book, Journey to Tracer’s Point. The other three have taken a year each, so I must be getting a little more organized with my thoughts and story ideas. I joined Romance Writers of American (RWA) and eventually Women Writing the West (WWW) and Western Writers of American (WWA). These organizations have been very helpful in my writing through workshops, conferences, and Internet loops. I also belong to a critique group that helps me hone down my manuscript in better form.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
WHERE DO YOU RESEARCH?
I use the Internet, my personal and home town library, plus inter-library loans from other areas. I am a researcher and carry a card for the Library of Congress (LOC) in DC where I do some work about once a year. What a marvelous place to be. The Jefferson Building is fantastic with its Italian Renaissance style. You can almost hear Jefferson offering his personal library to the LOC or see J. F. Kennedy sitting at the slanted 1800 century desks with a small lamp lit. The library is regal and awe inspiring. So doing research at the LOC is more than worth the trip to DC to feel the ambience of the Jefferson room.
HOW DO YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH?
HOW DO YOU HANDLE ALL THE PAPERWORK FOR YOUR RESEARCH?
Paperwork can be overwhelming. During the writing process of the current book, my office looks like a hurricane hit several times. Books and papers are strung out all over the table, my desk, and the floor, not to mention maps, calendars, etc. My filing cabinets hold most of my information so that I can quickly obtain the information. I keep present papers close at hand. I can tell you truthfully, filing really piles up and it’s not my favorite thing to do. I would rather keep writing than file, but someone has to do it and since I’m the only one in the office, well….it becomes my job, eventually.
HOW IMPORTANT IS RESEARCH?
ANY OTHER BOOKS THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO HISTORICAL WRITERS?
There are many but depends on the century you might be writing about. Some books that I use are: Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Schlissel, Everyday Life Among the American Indians by Moulton, Everyday Life in the 1800s by McCutcheon, Indian Talk by Cody, and last but not least Everyday Life in the Wild West by Moulton. I am sure there are many, many more that your readers could share with me and I would welcome the suggestions.
ARE THERE PITFALLS WITH RESEARCH?
Oh, yes. A writer has to be careful how much of his research he is going to use. There is no way to use everything you come across. The information is what makes or breaks a story. Too much info is overpowering and not enough makes a story dull. So new writers, be careful. Use enough to give your reader a feel for the situation or enough to make your characters come alive. Keep the rest file for another date or time, maybe for another book along the way.
Thank you so much for joining me, Gwyn, and giving us more insight into the research that goes into your books! It was fascinating.