Our guest today is Jan Drexler, a historical novelist whose stories often feature Amish characters. Today we talk about the challenges and choices Plain folk faced during the Civil War. Jan is a Civil War buff and traces her family history back through the Amish of the 1700s, so she brings a unique take to her stories.
She used census records and Ancestry.com to find out more about her family, and tried to figure out how and where her family moved away from Amish traditions. In her latest book, The Sound of Distant Thunder, she uses both history of the Amish church and the history of the United States to bring out the points in her story.
Jan researches until she finds a story nugget, then she moves to creative mode to flesh out the characters and the situation. As she comes up with questions, she goes back to research mode, sometimes checking to see if some real event or person could have interacted with her characters. She does this back-and-forth all the way through the first draft.
We have a great conversation that also includes a lot of great writing tips! I learned about tabbed sticky notes - a great way to find information again in books. Like me, Jan uses Scrivener to save website URLs for online research. Instead of taking the time to read an entire book from cover to cover, Jan uses the Index to find just the bit of research she needs today. If she needs more information, she uses the bibliography in the book to find more books and articles to go through.
When do you stop researching and start writing? Jan says she can feel the moment when the pot starts to boil, so to speak. The ideas begin to form and it's time to start writing. By that time, she usually has her characters and an outline or list of plot points so she can go ahead and begin. Jan explains her writing process and it sounds so good, I'm going to try it! :-D
Find out more about Jan at JanDrexler.com and follow her on Facebook as JanDrexlerAuthor and on Twitter as JanDrexler. Jan is also a member of Seekerville, one of Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers. Jan has some great articles there on building a story world, starting an Amish series, and using setting in your story.