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Researching Historical Fiction: The Journey Part One

My second novel, Necklace of Tears, started off with an idea: a girl, stranded in the middle of the ocean. How did she get there? Where was she from? I initially came up with the idea of writing something about the Polynesian sailors that explored the Pacific Ocean, but quickly abandoned that, thinking that it would be strange to research someone else’s culture, when I could be researching my own. But I’d never heard of Indian sailors before…

Knowing absolutely nothing about Indian history (being an American), I did some quick google searches and found that during the 11th century, the Chola Empire of South India expanded all around the Bay of Bengal. Which meant that they must have been sailing around, right? This makes sense to me, but actually this leap is a bit controversial despite the numerous art works and things from this time period in India there aren’t many sculptures or paintings of ocean-going vessels. Many historians have concluded that this means that Indians weren’t sailing, but I disagree with this idea since there was a lot of money to be made in trade and where there is money, there are willing travelers. (And how else would the Cholas have expanded their empire so widely?)

So I had chosen a time period for this story—now what?

Next week: The Journey Part Two: Finding Sources and Ideas

Click here for more photos from my research trip to India.

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