Sam Julian
Sam Julian asked Isabel Allende:

What is your research process like, and how do you check your work for historical accuracy? Can you describe an instance when you decided, for dramatic or plot purposes, it was better to overlook historical precedent?

Isabel Allende For all my novels, including those that are not historical, I begin by researching the time and place in which the story will occur. That gives me the theater where my characters will act. If the research is thorough enough, the reader surrenders to the story and agrees to believe whatever I am proposing. Usually I start my research with books that I buy or I get at the library, I also look for information in the internet. I try to interview people who either know about the theme or lived at the time. If it is a historical period from long ago, I look for first hand documents, for example, personal letters which can much more insightful than history books. For Daughter of Fortune I read letters written by Chilean miners who went to the Gold Rush in California in l848-49. They wrote to their families at home telling them abut their lives in the mines; some of those letters are in the National Library in Santiago. There I found out that a glass of milk was more expensive that a bottle of champagne because there was no one to milk the cows, everybody was digging for gold. Once I have the basic research covered, I start writing. Often I need to fill in more details during the process of writing. I am quite careful with my research but it's unavoidable that some errors may slip in and my editors or translators don't pick them up. Fortunately I have not had fanatic historians on my case.

Para todas mis novelas, incluso aquellas que no son históricas, empiezo investigando la época y el lugar en que ocurrirán los hechos. Eso me permite crear el teatro donde actuarán mis personajes. Si la investigación es precisa, los lectores se rinden ante la historia y consienten en creer lo que les propongo. Generalmente empiezo la investigación con libros que compro o que encuentro en la biblioteca, también busco información en la internet. Trato de entrevista gente que conoce el tema o que vivió los hechos. Si es un período histórico del pasado lejano, busco documentos de primera mano, por ejemplo, cartas personales, que pueden ser mucho más interesantes que los textos históricos. Para Hija de la Fortuna leí cartas escritas por mineros chilenos que fueron a la Fiebre del Oro en California en l848-49. Les escribieron a sus familias contándoles de sus vidas en las minas; algunas de esas cartas están en la Biblioteca Nacional en Santiago. Así descubrí que un vaso de leche era más caro que una botella de champaña, porque no había nadie que ordeñara las vacas, todos estaban buscando oro. Una vez que he hecho la investigación básica, comienzo a escribir. A menudo tengo que rellenar detalles durante el proceso de la escritura. Pongo mucho cuidado en la investigación, pero es inevitable que se me pasen algunos errores, que ni mis editores ni mis traductores pescan. Por suerte no me ha tocado enfrentar a historiadores fanáticos.
Isabel Allende
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