Thursday, February 24, 2022

How can researching historical fiction be so delightful? - A guest post by Gail Kittleson


How can researching historical fiction be so delightful? Let me count the reasons!

First of all, I’m curious. Always have been. Even in my youth, my questions may have seemed a bit “off” because I often searched beneath the surface. (Not too popular with my dad, a World War II vet working hard to make up for the time he had lost.) What business did this prying little snoop have delving into his motivations?

But this inquisitiveness has taken me places, and names exude history’s intrigue. For example, why would someone name a location Loyal Valley? 

Before I could unearth the answer, this name had me hooked. Wow—a pioneer German immigrant chose Loyal Valley to reveal the area’s loyalty to the Union despite Texas officially joining the confederacy. 

This act required courage. After all, tensions ran high during that period, and the Nueces Massacre took place quite close. But John Meusebach possessed courage in spades. 

Secondly, I love stories. 

Perhaps my searches involve human story as much as historical fact. I’m hungry for instances of courage, fortitude, and determination. Perhaps my background plays a role in this as well. Growing up in a tense household on an isolated family farm gave me a feel for tenacity and perseverance, because Mom displayed these qualities every day. 

The capacity to “grin and bear it” ran deep in her. She’d experienced hole-in-the-shoe poverty in the Depression and watched two older brothers go off to fight in the war.

Obstacles notwithstanding, she trucked on. And beside her, her second child wondered, asked, and sometimes nagged. Always pondering, nose stuck in a book at every opportunity, this girl surfaced with even more questions. 

Though others might scoff at the way her mind worked, foundations were being laid stone by stone, cemented into place. And sixty years later, I take joy in leaving no stone unturned in my research. Which brings me to our third reason: the joy of discovery.

Often while I’m searching, an intuition arises, so I must see if history bears out this possible scenario. In researching the Fall of Bataan, I thought, “Surely, with over 70,000 Allied captives and such mountainous terrain, some soldiers must have escaped.” 

A whole lot of reading later, evidence came to light. Indeed, some officers had escaped to fight with Philippine guerillas in the heights. Such satisfaction ensued—my instincts rode close to the truth, and my hero might survive being a POW, might even make it back to the States. 

Fourth, (and last for this writing) I like to learn. Isn’t that one reason we’re still here on earth, to learn and grow? A person cannot study history without learning—just today, a bias I’ve held for decades against a certain politician dissolved. How did I miss his part in aiding Jewish individuals to emigrate to the U.S. before and after World War II? 

Historical research takes you where you allow it to. And the best part? The process amounts to pure fun!


My thanks to Gail for sharing her joy of historical research with us.  I liked her book Land That I Love very much and hope to read others.  Her website is gailkittleson.com and you can find lots of information there.  Enjoy!


  1. I think that the reasons that Gail gives for researching historical fiction are the same reasons that I like reading historical fiction. Especially the learning part, which is a big element in reading historical fiction for me. Of course, the author has to put in a lot of hard work to do all of that and I get to enjoy the results with less work.

    1. Tracy - Gail wanted to comment to you, but had a little trouble - here's what she emailed me:

      Hi Tracy -- I've always liked to read hist. fiction, too. The benefits of the research have helped me think deeper and appreciate more. (: Glad to meet you here. Thanks to Kay!

    2. And to follow up, I agree with what you said, Tracy. Definitely a lot of hard work on the part of the author. :-)

    3. Kay, thanks for adding Gail's reply. If I had the talent or the inclination to write fiction, historical fiction would be my pick, because I love research, always have.

  2. I have always enjoyed historical fiction also. Add a mystery and I will probably read it. Actually, I find most have a mystery to them and could qualify...At the end of the book club meeting, we were sharing other books like we always do. Several were discussing books more in the historical fiction genre and said "we need a historical fiction group!"

    1. I love it! Think you guys should consider a historical fiction group - led by someone else - of course. Ha! I agree that many historical fiction books have an element of mystery to them, even if they are official 'historical mystery' books.

  3. Historical research is definitely something I'd enjoy.

  4. I enjoy historical research as well. There's so much to discover.


Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!