Interview on Research
with Elizabeth Pye
Elizabeth Pye is asked, “What is included in your research for each book?”
Elizabeth Pye used primary and secondary resources in her first book. However, she also visited the site of Silk or Sugar’s setting. The novel takes you back into one of France’s most horrific eras.
Visit the place of your novel’s setting if possible because it enhances the story line. For example, at the beginning of Silk or Sugar, Elizabeth expresses how it felt to visit the place of her novel’s setting. She tells what it was like to visit France, the setting of her novel. Janine de Fleury’s escape from the Reign of Terror gives you an idea of what the victims must have endured.
Elizabeth says, “When I walk past the Place de la Concorde, the Parisian site of the guillotine during the French Revolution, the unthinkable horror of its history is like a dark cloud carried along on a cold winter wind.”
Hear Elizabeth explain her research process in this video:
Angie: “What is included in your research, or how do you go about research for your books?”
Elizabeth: “I get a lot of books that I add to my library on the topic for one thing. I buy used books on Amazon or other booksellers, and I did that especially earlier on in my research. Now some of the antiquarian book dealers are pretty well cleaned out, so I find that is not as much of an option. So I now am doing more research online. When I’m going to write about a specific place, I go online and read about it and print off things and have them available, the ones that really seem to apply. I try to get a feeling of actually being there and walking through it. I have been very fortunate in that I have been able to travel to France several different times. As my readers will know, I write about the Loire Valley and Paris primarily. I went to both of those places and spent a lot of time and wore out a pair of shoes or more going to the places that I’m writing about.”
Angie: “Very fascinating, makes it become more real.”
Elizabeth: “Yes. Oh, it does, and the Cathedral of Tours, Saint Gatien’s Cathedral, is a place that fascinates me. It’s such beautiful architecture – the old stained glass windows and the setting around it and the archbishop’s house, all those things and the garden outside. There were some old, I guess they were stables at one time that are on the side of the Archbishop’s palace that is now the Museum, Beaux Arts Museum. I may incorporate that into my story. It just is so fascinating because it’s run down, and you just feel all that history, so I’m planning on trying to work that into my Return to Chateau Fleury story. Some things are going to be found that have been hidden there since the French Revolution.”
Angie: “When you went on your trips over there, in the gardens, did you feel at home? Because you have gorgeous rose bushes and other kinds of flowers here.”
Elizabeth: “Oh, I felt very much at home, and I loved them. I got lots of pictures of them. I had a very interesting experience inside the Cathedral, though. My husband and I were in there, just sitting. It was about early afternoon. There wasn’t anybody in sight. Maybe somebody was in the back rooms. I don’t know. But all of a sudden there was some a beautiful female voice singing. And I was sitting there like I was in an altered state, I think. It was just beautiful music.”
Angie: “Did your husband hear it also?”
Elizabeth: “He didn’t.”
Elizabeth: “But I think being right on site of what you’re writing about can bring up all kinds of feelings and experiences. Reading about it in a book is good if you can’t get to the sights, but the gems you come away with when you can are just absolutely beyond….”
Angie: “They stay with you.”
Elizabeth: “Oh, yes, and it really opens you up to it. You have a sense of the space around you, and you’re not going to misinterpret that. The chateau that I used for my basic floor plan idea for Chateau Fleury – we spent the night in that. But it was really a combination of that and Château de Chenonceau which I toured several times and really paid a lot of attention to.”
Angie: “Now where is that?”
Elizabeth: “That’s in Loire Valley, and it’s very famous. I think it’s called the Lady’s Chateau. It’s beautiful. In the time of royalty, the women all wanted possession of that chateau. So Chenonceau, when I first started writing, was my model. But when we spent the night and visited Chateau Sept Tours, I went ahead and got pictures there. It’s a composite of the two really. Chateau Fleury that is.”
Angie: “It’s a common place, I assume, for tourists.”
Elizabeth: “Chenonceau? Yes, absolutely.”
Angie: “How far is that from Paris?”
Elizabeth: “It’s about an hour and a half or so.”
Angie “Well, thank you!”
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Watch Elizabeth’s other videos on historical fiction writing, and find out from Elizabeth’s perspective why authors write historical fiction.