What I didn't know was that everything was about to change for me as a writer. When my agent asked me how long it would take me to write the sequel, I hesitated so long that she said something like, "Be realistic, but the right answer is not longer than a year."
I agreed because, let's face it, what was the alternative? There are authors who can get away with publishing on their own schedule. Their readers will wait for them no matter how long it takes. But that's not how it works for most authors. Besides, I thought, how hard could it be? The sequel is about the same woman I'd already been writing about. I had a jump-start on the research.
As it turns out, this was only partially true. I'd done enough research on Cleopatra Selene to know that I had much more to learn, because historical fiction and even historical fantasy doesn't just revolve around the life of one person. It's a snapshot in time, and a good author will capture those details and even their contradictions. I have realized that for every fact I've learned about the ancient world between the years of 30BC-14AD there are ten more unexplored paths I could take. I'm fairly confident I'll never know everything there is to know about those years, but that doesn't stop me from trying.
Recently, I spent three working days researching the mucus of sea snails to understand how my heroine made herself rich making royal purple dye. Before I had a publishing contract, I might have spent weeks researching this, but now I have a deadline, so there's a limit. I have to stop myself and just write the book, knowing that as a fiction author, the story has to come first.
Still, I'm curious. How do you balance the research demands of historical novels against the demands of publishing today?