Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guest Author: Shana Galen - Who Needs a Research Assistant?

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author Shana Galen!  She previously visited us in May of this year, with her release of THE MAKING OF A DUCHESS, and blogged about treason during the Regency era.  Today she's back with a new release, THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN, and talking with us about research and assistants.  Thanks for being here with us today!

Who Needs a Research Assistant?

by Shana Galen

Author, Shana Galen
 Several years ago I attended a Chat with Nora Roberts. At the Romance Writers of America conference, bestselling authors often host “chats,” where they answer questions from aspiring authors. One question Ms. Roberts was asked was whether or not she had an assistant. I can’t remember if she said she did or not. It seemed she was loathe to have someone else in her space—a feeling most of us can understand, I’m sure—but she made a point to say that she would never allow an assistant to do research for her. She did all her own research.

As an aspiring author, I found this amazing. As a published author, it makes complete sense. If I had as much money as Nora Roberts, I could certainly assign someone else to read history books, journals, and letters from the Regency period for me, but that person isn’t writing my books. I’m the author, and I have to find the words and phrases to depict the time period and give the reader the feeling she has stepped back in time.

Another invaluable benefit of doing one’s own research is the interesting little tidbits one finds. I was researching the Bastille for my new novel The Making of a Gentleman. The novel is the story of the comte de Valére, Armand Harcout, who as a young French aristocrat must flee his family’s chateau when peasants attack at the start of the French Revolution. He hides in Paris, where he falls under the protection of two men with a secret. When he inadvertently learns the secret, he’s imprisoned for twelve long years.

Most of the book takes place in London after Armand is rescued from prison. It’s a book about resurrecting the human spirit, but I needed to know what life would have been like for Armand during those long years. Since the Bastille is such a famous prison, I started with it. I’d always read that the Fall of the Bastille was more symbolic than anything else, but I didn’t realize that when it fell it only housed seven prisoners. Not everything I read agreed as to the prisoners’ offences, but most agreed there were seven in total. Four were forgers, two lunatics, and one was a nobleman. The nobleman was imprisoned by his own family and accused of incest.

Even though the Bastille held so few prisoners, it was a symbol of power and fear for the French people. It had been the prison of Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade. Prisoners were released only if they agreed never to speak of what they had seen or what happened inside the prison. The revolutionaries might have been surprised to learn that meals were plentiful and the prisoners were allowed to walk freely and converse with the officers guarding the prison. Some prisoners were even granted parole into Paris.

This was not the sort of prison I wanted for Armand. The secret he holds is far too dangerous to allow him such freedom. The Bastille, of course, was not the only prison. Other prisons were far more conventional and far less desirable for incarceration. I invented my own prison, based on the research I did, and had Armand imprisoned in the garret, alone, for twelve years.

I don’t think I could have captured the feel of Armand’s prison without doing my own research, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate an assistant. I could definitely use someone to do laundry and wash dishes while I dive into research books or the internet.

What about you? Could you use an assistant?

I hope you’ll pick up The Making of a Gentleman. Visit my website at www.shanagalen.com for excerpts and contests.

Two lucky commenters will win a copy of THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN.  Winners will be posted in the winners cube.  (US and Canada only)


“Galen’s signature sense of humor, expertly blended with deep emotions, will hold readers captive right to the end.”

—RT Book Reviews

“Lively dialogue, breakneck pace and a great sense of fun.”

—Publishers Weekly

Twelve years in prison has stripped him of his humanity…

Armand, Comte de Valère has lost the ability to interact with polite society, until his family hires him a beautiful tutor, and he starts to come alive again…

Saving him is her only chance to escape a terrible fate…

Felicity Bennett vows she’ll do whatever it takes to help Armand fight back the demons that have held him captive for so long…

With Felicity’s help, Armand begins to heal, until a buried secret threatens to destroy their growing passion…

Click here for History Undressed's review of this book.


Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. Shana is a happily married wife and mother of a daughter and a spoiled cat and lives in Houston, Texas where she is working on the final book in the Brothers of the Revolution series, The Making of a Rogue, which will be in stores in 2011. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com.


ShanaGalen said...

Thanks so much for having me here today!

Anna said...

I could really, really, really use an assistant both for my paying work and for my life (keeping track of doctor or dentist appointments and basic reminders, for example). My paying work is, ironically enough, as an assistant. And wow do I stink. Assistant jobs are under-paid and under-appreciated, and I have the utmost respect for those who excel at organization and support roles.

~Anna G.

Eliza Knight said...

Thanks for visiting Shana!

I know what you mean Anna! I need an assistant too... I'd like my assistant to do my laundry though... I don't think I'll have any luck there! lol

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I could use an assistant. My newest project is a verse novel about a Gitano girl (Spanish Gypsy). I'm having a hard time finding anything about Andalusian Gitanos during the late 19th century. Care to join me?

Colleen M. said...

There are times in my life when I think I could use an assistant and I'm a single gal with no kids - I so don't know how the moms do it!

Shana, your book sounds fantastic - best of luck with it! Colleen M :)

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Shana. Sounds like a great story. I would 12 years in solitary would mess with a man's mind. I've never thought about whether I could use an assistant. Interesting thought, but I agree with you. If you have an assistant doing the work, you'd miss that one really neat tid bit you could spin a story off of.

Chicks of Characterization said...

The Making of a Gentleman sounds like a great book!! Wishing you the best of luck!!

Andrea :O)

ShanaGalen said...

It sounds like we all need assistants! Can't help you with Andalusian Gitanos, Caroline. I think you need an expert. Eliza, I need an assistant to help with laundry too. I never had so much laundry until I had a baby. I don't understand how she does it.

Thanks for all the well wishes!

Bearded Lady said...

I just really want a diaper changing assistant but I can't imagine someone doing my history research - that's the fun part! your books sounds fascinating...I have to know if he escapes his prison.

Rita Merlow said...

HI Shana,
Your story takes place at a fascinating time in French history so I'm sure it's a great read!
As for an assistant, I think he should have a long list of endearing qualities.

librarypat said...

I have read many reviews of this book and they have all been most complimentary. I will enjoy reading it.
Research really does need to be done by the author. There are little things you pick up that might not be passed along by an assistant. By doing the research you get the feel of the era and people. That plus I really enjoy the research. I'm with you, let the assistant do the laundry and the housework. You get to do the cool research and write good books.
librarypat AT comcast DOT net