Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Say Howdy to Jannine Corti Petska...

My guest today is a superb author of historical novels, and someone who pays great attention to detail when showing her novels to the reader.  Today, she's sharing what works for her.  Welcome, Jannine, I'm so happy to have you join us.  I plan to read and learn.

The Historical Romance Western Novel
Writing and Researching: Which Comes First?

Does your story begin with an idea? Certain characters? A location? Should you research before you begin to write? Or does it matter? Each writer will answer these questions differently. For me, envisioning my hero is the first inkling of a new story. The research and location help to mold who the hero is or will become.

Researching any historical novel requires diligent work, often long hours of sifting through library book stacks, searching online, and referring to books in your home library. Whether I’m writing a western or a medieval, I’d never get through the book if I didn’t put several months into researching every aspect and more of the time period. But I do find gathering information and writing an American Western much easier than writing a medieval because the late 19th century seemed similar to ours, with the obvious exceptions.

How do you begin your research? Mine starts with the three basic needs: hero, heroine and setting. In REBEL HEART, I envisioned an ex-gunfighter who was at one time on the wrong side of the law because of the “bad guys.” I saw his character as crass, having a chip on his shoulder, and silent but blunt when he did speak. Above all, he had to have a good heart even though his rough, unapproachable demeanor didn’t allow for an outward display of kindness. His caring nature came through in his actions.

The heroine needed to be the opposite of the hero, so she came west from a wealthy New York family, seemingly pampered but not afraid to get her hands dirty. And she had to have patience with the man who steals her heart. The setting for the novel was easy: I’ve always had a strange connection with Santa Fe, New Mexico. A “past life” type of connection.

With those three things in place, I began researching the 1870s for reasons I can’t recall. When I discovered the range wars were heating up, the plot started to unfold. The heroine inherits a sheep ranch. The bad guy is a cattle rancher. And the hero, with his secretive and dark past, gets caught up in the middle. I learned everything I could about sheep ranching. There’s no doubt in my mind I could have worked on a sheep ranch with no problem. <g> The rest of the story gelled because the research led me down one path after another, throwing ideas at me left and right.

Here is the blurb.

When the woman he's sworn to protect finds herself in the middle of a range war,  Beau Hamilton fights against losing his heart while defending Courtney Danning against the unscrupulous man fixing to run her out of town. But when their passion turns as hot as the Santa Fe sun, will their love in the untamed West prevail? Or will Beau's dark past tear them apart?

In LOVE’S SWEET WAGER, the gambler hero burrowed into my mind. The heroine’s father was a cheating gambler, and the hero is accused of murdering him over a card game. But in this book, the setting wasn’t solidified until I found a book (in the form of a diary) about the California Trail. The doctor who wrote it detailed each stop the wagon train made, the date, the weather, what they did when they made camp, as well as the trouble they encountered along the way. The decision to use the doctor’s diary was a no brainer. Actually, I believe it was a fortuitist find.

Of course, the story wouldn’t be complete without a good dose of conflict and a plot to sustain the book until the end. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Her gambler father murdered, Rachel Garrett joins a wagon train west to be with her aunt and the fiancĂ© she's never met.  Her dream is to forget the life she led performing on stage to earn the money her father gambled away and settle down in one place.  But along the trail, she is helplessly drawn to a priest--forbidden fruit--and her hopes are shattered.

Professional gambler Reno Hunter is wanted for the murder of  James Garrett.  His disguise as a priest on a wagon train is foolproof, until he discovers the woman the old gambler wagered in that fatal card game and Rachel Garrett are one and the same.  Can he protect his identity and his heart, or will he surrender to his desire for Rachel and risk being apprehended by the law?

I believe I had written about how I came by the hero’s name in another blog. But for those who didn’t read it, here it is again. What perfect name for a gambler than Reno? People gamble in Reno, Nevada. It made sense to me. As for Hunter, well…women cannot help but be attracted to the hero. Even though he didn’t have to go far to find a female to keep him company at night, I thought the idea of a hot man on the prowl would be akin to a hunt. I know, it’s lame, but that’s how I saw the hero for this book. Actually, there’s another reason: Reno was always on the hunt for another card game. Now that one makes more sense, lol.

I’ve been focused on medievals for last several years. I’m itching to get back into the saddle, so to speak. My entire being screams, “I need to lose myself in a historical western (hero <g>)!” Before I can do that, I have an obligation to write two more full-length medieval novels, one completing a four-book series, the other the third book in a trilogy. They’ll likely take all of 2012; that’s including ample time for research.

While the hero is high on my list when I think up a new story, what gets you motivated to create a novel? I’d love to know.

I’d like to thank Ginger for having me as a guest on Cowboy Kisses. It’s always fun to be on blogs. 

Buy links for REBEL HEART
Available in ebook and print

Barnes and Noble


Buy links for LOVE’S SWEET WAGER
Available in ebook and print

The Wild Rose Press


Barnes and Noble


Kathy Otten said...

I love doing research. Sometimes it forces me to change things in my story, because maybe the train didn't go through a certain area where my story takes place. That's why I do a rough, rough draft first, then start to do the research.

Jannine said...

That's the beauty of research: finding all the unexpected tidbits that are useful for your story. And if not that WIP, then stash it away for another story.

Thanks for commenting.

Susan Blexrud said...

I find that "being there" is my best motivation. The idea for my Mayan time travel occurred when I scaled the steps of the pyramid at Chichen-Itza and viewed the Yucatan Peninsula from a bird's eye view. And for my Civil War story, the seed was sown when I visited Gettysburg. So, vacations seem to be good for this writer. Wonder what I'll come up with when I visit Ireland this summer????

Janet Elizabeth Jones said...

Hey there, Jannine :) I enjoyed this post so much. Hi there, Ginger! :D

I love how research leads to new story ideas. You know how you'll be researching for one book and end up with several? Love it when that happens. Sometimes all it takes is the name of a place. I think writers are insatiable when it comes to understanding people and the cultures people create, regardless of time or place.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I also enjoy research. I love learning something new; it keeps our minds young. Loved the excerpt. Wishing you much luck!!

Jannine said...

Being there is definitely much better. If only I weren't afraid to fly. :(

Thanks for commenting.

Jannine said...

Janet, thanks for reading my post!

I agree with you about writers being insatiable in their understanding of "things". My husband calls it insanity, but what does he know? He's not a writer! LOLOL

Jannine said...

Something has to keep our minds young, lol! Now if only the body could follow.....

Thanks, Vonnie.

Jannine said...

Hi Kathy:
You do a rough draft before you do your research? Unfortunately, I have to have the bulk of my research finished before I begin a new book. Then I'll do a little more as I need to.

Thanks for commenting.

Jannine said...

Ginger, in my thank you at the end of my blog, I made a mistake, lol. It's supposed to be, "It's always fun to be on Ginger's blog."

Once again, thank you for having me.

Unknown said...

It's always my pleasure to host you, Jannine. You know that. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Jannine,
Great blog. I love research also. I think finding historical gems to include in a story is a real highlight, and surprisingly, for me at least, it happens quite often.



Ilona Fridl said...


When I start on a story, the plot is the first thing I work on. The characters come in gradually. Sometimes the hero comes first or sometimes the heroine. It depends who's story it is the most.