“The Truth Is out There – If You Do The Research!”
by Linda Shenton Matchett
My dad traveled extensively while I was growing up. As a result, he was knowledgeable about many of the major cities scattered throughout the US. When we watched television together, he would point out errors (historic or cultural references, locations, idioms, etc.). Fast forward to my own travels that subsequently tuned me into the importance of accuracy, even (or maybe especially) in fiction.
Several years ago, after my husband and I had been to England, an advertisement for an American car came onto the television. The ad was set in London, and the graphic artist put a building near Tower Bridge that doesn’t exist in “real life.” The company’s credibility was smudged in my eyes. First of all, why use an English backdrop to advertise an American car? Secondly, if you’re going to use a location, get it right. That one incident drilled into me how crucial it is for authors to get our facts correct. Readers will find errors, casting doubt on the rest of our writing.
Most of my stories are set during WWII, so I have countless resources to use during the research phase of each book. Primary sources (first-hand accounts of an event) are best, and I’ve had access to hundreds. Universities and museums across the globe conduct interviews as part of oral history projects that are posted on their website or YouTube. I’ve listened to former WASPS, WACS, WAVES, SPARS, female Marines, nurses, USO entertainers, Women’s Land Army members, Red Cross workers, AWVS volunteers, “Rosie the Riveters,” and spies tell their stories. Nearly every one of those women comments at some point during the interview that she was “only doing what had to be done” or “just doing her bit.”
Another primary source that has helped me tremendously is the opportunity to read letters to and from the men and women stationed all over the globe. The personal correspondence of dozens of US residents, many from New Hampshire, are housed in the Wright Museum of WWII, a gem of a museum located in my town. Because the writers didn’t consider their letters would be read later (why would they?), the emotions, thoughts, and experiences are up close and raw: fear, longing, jealousy, anger, discouragement, love, and passion. My characters are more complex because I’ve read these letters, and, more importantly, I have a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation.
Doing specific research for my latest release Under Cover, in which journalist Ruth Brown is putting a face on the war for her readers at home in the U.S., I read autobiographies of Margaret Bourke-White, Martha Gellhorn, Henry Gorrell, Andy Rooney, and William Shirer. I also read articles written by Dickey Chapelle, Tania Long, Virginia Cowles, and other female war correspondents who described their personal experiences.
For Ruth, juggling her career and her relationship with Detective Inspector Trevor Gelson hasn’t proven too challenging, but the war gets personal for Ruth when her friend Amelia is murdered, and Trevor is assigned to the case. Life gets even more unsettling when clues indicate her best friend, Varis, is passing secrets to the enemy. Convinced Varis is innocent, Ruth must find the real traitor as the clock ticks down toward Operation Husky-the Allied invasion of Sicily. Circumstantial evidence leads Trevor to suspect her of having a part in Amelia’s death, and Ruth must choose between her heart and her duty.
It is my hope that my tale honors these stalwart reporters in some way.
Bio: Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is also a trustee for her local public library and a lecturer with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through Granite State College. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.
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