History Hoydens

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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

20 February 2007

Welcome Sariah S. Wilson!

Secrets in Zarahemla
by Sariah S. Wilson
Covenant Communications, Inc.--February, 2007

As she hangs upside-down in a hunter’s snare, Kiah feels a wave of fear as her captor comes into view. By his looks, as appealing as they are, the tall Lamanite is the mortal enemy of Kiah and her people. She can’t hope that her father, Captain Moroni, and his Nephite soldiers will rescue her—the strong-willed young woman has wandered well beyond the safe borders of Zarahemla. However, she is determined to use her warrior training to fight the Lamanite called Jeran until the end, no matter how hopeless the odds.

The land of Zarahemla has long been under serious threat from its enemies. But recently, its worst foes come from within—including Corahan, a man who would stop at nothing to fulfill his desires. One of the things Corahan most wants is Kiah as his wife. Now Kiah and her new unlikely ally must call on all their faith and courage to save Zarahemla in a struggle that will bring either deliverance or death—to both of them.

Journey to 62 BC and discover adventure, intrigue, and romance in a story where evil must be fought against, no matter how high the cost.

Secrets in Zarahemla is set in 62 BC, in the Mayan civilization . How did you become interested in this time period and location? What you love about it?

That’s actually a loaded question! First - I find the Mayan civilization fascinating - the level of complexity in their civilization, the knowledge they had, the beautiful buildings they left behind, and we have little to no record of them. Only three Mayan original documents remain. Everything else we know about them we’ve either surmised from archaeology or gleaned from the journals of the Spanish conquistadores. I had to base a lot of my research on the idea that pervades those who study the Maya - that things in 2000 are not much different than what the Mayan life was like in 1500 (with some obviously notable exceptions) and so the theory goes that if things didn’t change much in 500 years even with outside influences, that things were probably similar in 1000 and 500 and 0 and 500 B.C., etc.

I’m also interested in this time period (and this is probably what I love most about it) because of my faith - I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. We have a scriptural text called the Book of Mormon, and to make a long explanation short, it is believed that the people of Central America are those people that left behind that text. But since the Book of Mormon is heavy on spiritual doctrine and we only get glimpses of the culture, I love studying the Mayans because it helps me to fill in those blanks.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

Well, women were not treated very well (but I think that’s pretty universally true for any civilization in this time period). That was probably my biggest challenge in writing this book and the following ones - that I wrote women who did not fall into the typical women’s roles, but I made sure to let the reader know that they weren’t typical and to explain why. And of course people didn’t marry for love, but it wouldn’t be much of a romance if people didn’t fall in love, would it?

What sparked tis book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

What first sparked this book was this picture I had in my head of the hero being imprisoned and the heroine freeing him. It just showed up one day and it made me start to wonder. I began to imagine a “Romeo and Juliet” type romance (only without the dying in the end) and branched out from there. When I found a historical event that would perfect match my story (the heroine’s city is being taken over by men who want to overthrow the current government and install a king), it really grew from there. Scene after scene popped in my head, dialogue seemed to just be spilling forth and I knew I had to write it.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really intersting that you didn’t already know?

Oh yes, massive amounts of research. I checked out every book the library had on the Maya, and ordered many books from Amazon (just don’t tell my husband). I don’t even have a fraction of the books I would like to own! I know this is a cop-out answer, but everything I ran across was fascinating to me, because everything was new. One of my most exciting research finds was when I had a scene of my heroine and a secondary character saying farewell to one another. It was important to me that the secondary character treat the heroine like a fellow warrior (because she is great with weapons and really does kick butt in the book), only I didn’t know how it would be done. I looked in book after book - I even contacted some Maya professors at my alma mater. Nothing. Then one day, while doing some research, I came across a passage that perfectly described it. I can’t tell you how thrilling that was, and how excited I was to put in something that I knew was historically accurate rather than something I made up.

What/Who do you like to read?

I’m one of those a-little-bit-of-everything people. But I have great love for the Regency (and hope to write some traditionals someday soon) and I love chick lit. I’m very sad that the market is considered “dead.” I also like light and frothy paranormals. As I go through the Romantic Times to circle the books that sound interesting to me, those three areas are what I usually pick out.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

My writing process has been very different on each book I’ve written. So far what I’ve noticed is that I do a lot of what Lisa Kleypas calls “wool gathering.” I have to think and think about the book, about the characters, their goals and motivations, how I can get those into conflict, that sort of thing. If I had my way, I’d have at least three or four months just to think about it. While I’m thinking about it, my Muse kicks in and I start getting ideas for scenes and snippets of dialogue (which I always rush to write down because if I don’t get it immediately onto paper, my recreation of it is never, ever as good as my original idea). Then when I feel like I have enough (or my editor calls and asks, “Are you ever going to write this thing?”) I start to write the story. I like to put the thought outline I’ve created down on paper, inserting scenes and dialogue into the appropriate place. But I’m constantly deviating from it - and I have had my characters surprise me sometimes with what they want to do next.

I also don’t write multiple drafts. That would drive me insane. I write down a scene or a chapter, and then I go back and revise it until I have it exactly how I want it to be, and then I continue on. Each morning I usually reread what I wrote the day before and fix it. I do one read over when I’m finished, and I submit.

What are you planning to work on next?

I have another book set in the same time period tentatively entitled “Devotion” coming out this fall, and right now I’m working on a third book, also in the same time period. Then after that I hope to write a traditional Regency. And maybe a chick lit. And a light and frothy paranomal. Maybe I can write all three together!

4 Comments:

Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

"We have a scriptural text called the Book of Mormon, and to make a long explanation short, it is believed that the people of Central America are those people that left behind that text."

Wow, Sariah. Very intersting. I had no idea. Thanks for posting on our blog!

5:20 PM  
Blogger Sariah said...

Thank you very much for having me.

I've learned so much from all of you that I'm glad I was able to share some things that I'm knowledgeable about.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

The book sounds really interesting. A whole time and place that we don't often hear much about (outside of Mel Gibson's crazy moive, that is).

11:44 AM  
Blogger lacey kaye said...

Oh, my! Glad I kept scrolling down. This sounds AWESOME.

2:56 PM  

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