People sometimes ask me how hard it is to work history into my young adult/new adult historical romances. It’s actually the opposite—it’s hard to stop!
I do a lot of research about my setting before I start the first draft. I use real events in history for major plot points and an idea of what my characters would be doing in that place and time. For example, the creation of McKinley National Park is a big part of my novel Gold Nuggets.
Later, I go back and add research once I know which questions I need answers to. In a Gold Rush book, that might involve learning more details about sluiceboxes. In my current work-in-progress, I found ways to describe common men’s haircuts in 1942.
Serendipity plays a role in writing, also. I pick up things along the way that I didn’t intend to. Case in point: I’m watching Ken Burns’ JAZZ series on PBS right now, and last night I found the perfect song for the scene when my hero’s sure he’ll never see his love again. (Hint: Charlie is listening to a Bessie Smith record.)
I’m a huge fan of Ken Burns and recommend all his work, but JAZZ is definitely worth watching, whether you’re a history buff, music fan, or just curious. See more at http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/jazz/home/.