Ever wonder how writers do in-depth research, especially into very old, handed-down stories? Rebekah Jonesy has been kind enough to share her approach, including how she uses Wikipedia (correctly), getting to the bottom of legends, and choosing exactly how to include those legends and myths in her writing.
One of the things that every author has to do is research. This is a great way to waste time while still telling yourself that you’re working. But that doesn’t mean it’s not needed. Especially when you’re writing about a mashup of old beliefs and legends, like I am for my new series, Mab’s Doll.
Gaelic legends in itself are convoluted and twisted. It started its existence as an oral tradition. And of course over the years with wars and conquerors and famine and blight and the resulting chaos, a lot of the stories were lost. Or became confused.
People like Shakespeare came and heard the stories and adapted it for their own use. They
crafted their own stories and wrote them down. Those written stories were shared farther and faster than the oral stories passed down through the generations. While I have used this bastardization of the stories as a plot point, it makes finding the original stories much harder.
Wikipedia has actually been a great help with this. I looked up the character or creature I wanted to know about, then I ignored most of what was written on the page and instead check out the source links at the bottom. Because the creatures of the fae are so similar to the creatures from other cultures, I tried to focus at least my origin story for my MC, Gilian Gilchrist, on the Irish and Scottish legends about the Sidhe.
And I realized right off the bat that I did not know nearly as much as I assumed.
I didn’t even know how to pronounce Sidhe. It’s actually pronounced Shee. So it has been a wonderful trip through the Underhill for me. I’ve started separating out the origins of each type of critter I had planned on using for my series, even knowing that I’m later going to mash them back together. But my plan for now is to make sure that everyone knows the origin of each type of character I introduce through my series.
Even my first book, Moss and Clay, which deals with a siren, is a mixture of Irish and Greek lore. And from that combined lore, I came up with a creature that had lived for centuries in Ireland, Greece, and ancient Rome. But even knowing where she came from I still had to decide whether or not to give her wings. Because my research told me that while sirens in Ireland started out as snakes, the sirens in Greece had bodies of birds and heads of women. Or maybe they had bodies of women and heads of birds. Or maybe they were women who just had wings. Or maybe they were men and women who could be any bird-like combination thereof. So while my research gives me a lot of ideas, in the end it’s up to me how to put the pieces together to make them fit into the story line my main character insists on.
Rebekah Jonesy knows stuff about things and isn’t afraid to talk and write about it. Outside of the literary world, she is a mad scientist cook, gardener, Jill of all trades, and military spouse. Inside the literary world she is a devourer of books, publisher, and mentor.
“Rebekah has the best kind of rabies”- JD Estrada
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