Sam Julian asked Alan Brennert:
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?
Alan Brennert I tend to be fairly obsessive when it comes to historical accuracy--to the extent of combing through old city directories to find actual business names and addresses to populate a street or neighborhood, rather than just making something up--and my process includes reading through voluminous numbers of oral histories, files at the state archives, and old newspaper articles on microfilm. (I found several historical incidents buried in the latter, for both MOLOKA'I and HONOLULU, that were never mentioned in any book I read on the respective subjects.) I've found I don't have to sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of plot or drama. When I can't find enough information about a real-life person I'm including in the story--as in the case of Sister Vincent, an actual Franciscan nun who suffered a nervous breakdown and had to leave Kalaupapa--I choose to create a fictional character inspired by the real-life person, in this case, Sister Victor. Better to create a new character than to attribute an invented background to a historical figure; I find the latter to be a bit dodgy and dishonest.
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Mike asked Alan Brennert: