Monday, November 18

Historical Fiction Research Settings with guest Ilona Fridl

What does the land look like? How is the town laid out? How do the buildings appear, inside and out? What kind of plants grow there? What kind of animals are around? What is the weather pattern?

To have an authentic visual in your story, you have to study the area you choose to set it in. As things change through the ages, you have to study what was there and what wasn't. For example, if your setting is in London, England in the 1500s, you can have a scene at the Tower of London, but you couldn't escape an angry mob across the Tower Bridge, because it wasn't built until the 1800s.


Maps are your best friend. If you can find a map of the area in the time you set the action, you'll know where all the roads were and, if you're lucky, where many of the buildings were. There are maps with topographical features; like hills, marshlands, lakes, rivers, etc. When I set out on my second novel in Juneau, Alaska, I had never been to Alaska so I found every map I could of the area. I found out that Juneau is set back from the ocean in a series of channels like Norwegian Fjords. Juneau sits on a shelf between the sea and a base of a mountain. Since the time I chose was the 1920s, I found a map showing the old town and downtown district. Map Quest has satellite views of certain cities and it helps to know how to get around.


Every country seems to have some identifiable style of building. There's the half-timbered style that was used in Europe around the 1500s. The log and clapboard buildings of the early Euro-American settlements. The grass huts of the native Pacific Islanders. And the Japanese Pagoda buildings.
To research what the buildings were like, travel books are a rich resource. They often give the history of the buildings and a rough date in time that they were constructed. Some web sites offer a visual tour through the buildings, so you can see how they were laid out. For older times, archeology books are a good resource. For Roman buildings the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum shows well preserved structures.

Flora and Fauna

Plants and animals figure into many stories. If the hero needs a particular medicinal plant, you'd better find out if it grows there. Otherwise, our hero is out of luck. Travel books, again, often go into what plants and animals are native to a region. Nature books are another good source. They often have maps of the flora and fauna and where it's located. A trip to the library should tell you what you want to know.


Snow in Greece? Well, maybe, but not likely. Weather patterns have changed throughout the ages. For example, much of the Sahara Desert was once a grassland. I hate to sound like a broken record, but travel books will give you an idea of the weather and temperature of a region. Archeology and geology books can help with the weather of the past.
My new book, Prime Catch, was an off-shoot of Golden North. I researched the land around Juneau and put it into the new story.
Thank you, Word Wranglers, for letting me be a guest on your blog!

Blurb: Someone is killing executives in a string of Alaskan canneries. Is it natives because their food supply is being cut short? Or is there another reason, another culprit? With racial tension running high, Juneau 's Sheriff Amos Darcy, a man of few words, is going to find out who it is, come hell or high water.Deputy Sarah Lakat, a Tlingit woman, knows her job, but she wants to prove her people aren't responsible for these vicious crimes. Her family and childhood friends give her access to clues the white sheriff would never have discovered, though, and she has to realize justice must be served no matter who the murderers are.Amos is married to his work and Sarah was badly hurt by a man in her past, yet as they work together in the investigation they grow close, facing danger and discrimination together. Can they solve the case even as they fight their attraction to each other?

Ilona Fridl is a transplanted Californian that now lives with her husband of 40 years in Wisconsin. She always loved to write, but hated typewriters and rejoiced when they purchased their first computer in 1995. Short stories and articles followed. She sold her first novel in 2006 and has a fifth and sixth in the works. She's a member of RWA and a former student of AllWriters in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Buy Links: Historical-Vintage Rose
You can find me on Facebook and Goodreads!


  1. Great post, ladies. Ilona, you're so right about the maps. I've found them a tremendous help, even when researching medieval information. Good luck with your book! Barb Bettis

  2. Thanks for the good wishes, Barbara! And thanks, again, Liz for hosting me!