Ask A Wench—Our favorite research sources

LonghouseAndrea here, putting together this month's Ask A Wench feature, which poses a particularly fun question from Wench reader Claire Phillips. (Thank you, Claire!): What are the best resources you've found for your research? What are the most fun ones?

Christina:  For me, both the best and most fun resources have been seeing historical reconstructions and trying things out for myself – in my case, Viking longships and houses, and some of their implements. Being able to take a short trip in a longship and help with the rowing was invaluable as I would never have known exactly how it felt otherwise. I couldn’t possibly have imagined how smoothly the keel cut through the waves or how easy it was to use Quern stonethe oars – I would have thought it was much heavier. It was good to know that as a female, I could have played my part and taken turns at rowing. To sit and lie down on a fur-covered bench in a reconstructed Viking hall also added so much to my picture of life a thousand years ago. And having a go at turning a quern stone gave me huge respect for the poor thrall women who had to use those all the time – it was incredibly heavy! When you experience things first-hand your senses are assailed in every way and you gain a more complete understanding of what it was like. I’m always thrilled when I get to do anything like that!

Read more

Going Down the (Research) Rabbit Hole

Ernst Joseph MünchAndrea here, musing on the stories we authors tell, and what sparks them. I get asked a lot about how I come up with ideas, and it’s impossible to give a simple answer. Inspiration comes in an infinite number of ways—many of them totally unexpected! And those serendipitous discoveries of fun things to weave into a plot often come from what many of us authors call the “Rabbit Hole” effect.

Sooo, what’s a Rabbit Hole? It’s what happens when I do a quick google search, meaning to spend a few minutes checking a simple fact or researching a specific fact . . . and lo and behold, some other detail within the text catches my eye. That results in another search, which leads to more fascinating details that draw me deeper and deeper into—you guessed it—the Rabbit Hole. (It can sometimes take hours to emerge!) (Above: Ernst Hermann Joseph von Münch)

Read more