Behind the scenes of the historical novel...

How many of you watch the "behind the scenes" sections on a DVD? Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in writing a story? Not every writer operates the same way, but we all have to do our research. Thought you might enjoy some of the places research has taken me this past week.

Birds sounds - were they chirping or warbling or cawing or something else? What birds might have lived in ancient Hebron? What would my character have heard?

Hebrew names for God - and which one might have been used in a specific passage? There is a great resource online that let me listen to the passage read in Hebrew while following along with the English translation. It takes several repeats and careful listening, but it's easy to recognize when God's name (usually Elohim or Adonai) is used.

Mediterranean skin tones. Not everyone in the Middle East has the same shade of skin color, but it's hard to find the differences described, especially when you are looking for what skin tones were like in ancient times. Sometimes there is no readily available information.

Topography of the land. In 4000 years much has changed. Even in 20 years the topography of an area can change significantly. Our pastor noticed this when we visited En Gedi in 2008. He'd been there about 20 years earlier and the place had looked much different.

So was ancient Harran flat or hilly? Did Padam Aram have trees or natural streams? Water was scarce in some areas, but not in others. Sometimes the information just isn't there because even archeology can't tell us what the topography of a place was like 4000 years ago. So we work with what we can.

Which brings me to today. First stop on my research trip is to study the history of raisin making.

Oh the places historical research takes you!