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Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team
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Fast Girls: Elise Hooper > Research for Fast Girls

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message 1: by Jess (new)

Jess Woods | 109 comments Mod
Good morning! Elise Hooper here again. I’m often asked how I researched FAST GIRLS. Short answer: Very carefully! :) But seriously, it’s true, a lot of research goes into writing historical fiction, and with a book that covered three very different main characters and three Olympics (1928, ’32, and ’36), I had my work cut out for me. I started by reading non-fiction books and biographies about Olympians, the history of women’s athletics, and several books about early Olympics. I also read the official reports on these three Olympics, listened to oral histories by the women athletes, and watched several documentaries, including Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia. Also, many librarians and archivists played an important role in this book by sending me yearbook pages, college newspapers, and maps.
After reading hundreds of vintage newspaper articles about these women, I decided to write articles to include in the book. These articles serve a narrative purpose, but they also show the condescending and sexist ways reporters described the women (buxom, feisty, plucky, etc.) and how society was reacting to the “spectacle” of women athletes.
The highlight of my research came from talking to the friends and descendants of these women and also traveling to see their hometowns first-hand. I visited the Helen Stephens Collection at the Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia and held Helen’s size-12 track shoes, read her diary from Berlin, and admired her scrapbooks. I also traveled to Malden, Massachusetts to see the statue that’s been dedicated to Louise and I found the railroad tracks where she used to train. They’ve been paved over now as part of a strip mall parking lot, but I could still feel her competitive spirit!

For me, part of the fun of writing historical fiction is doing the research and learning new things and this book had plenty of surprises. I’ll tell you about some of them tomorrow! Why do you read historical fiction? What are some favorite historical novels that have held some surprises for you?


message 2: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (drpowell) | 376 comments I am an historian. Though at times historical fiction drives me batty, I think it is SO valuable to introduce the reader to people and events they don't know, but can research more thoroughly. The Aviator's Wife stands out as a book that taught me so much -- about Charles Lindbergh.


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