In the November issue of Writers Forum I interviewed Philip Kazan about his research for his novel The Black Earth, based during the Greek Civil War in the run-up to WWII.
Philip explained to me how he used his family history as inspiration for the novel. He found as many eye-witness accounts as he could and pieced them together. He also found useful information in the UK and US newspaper archives.
One of his research tips for other historical writers is to find a tangible link to the period you are writing about, such as food and music. When talking about his writing process Philip said:
My practice is to write whatever I feel like writing as I build the characters and tell the story. What I’m usually left with is a huge book full of digressions that really fascinate me but are extraneous to the main thrust of the narrative. I prune reluctantly until I find the hard outline, then I become fairly ruthless. I love research and I love detail, but in the end it’s usually obvious what a reader will see as padding and what will actually advance the story.