Thank you, Michele, for asking me to do this post - what an honor!
Ever since I was about twelve, I've had a love affair with England. So when I took up writing, of course I wanted to write about the place I loved. My first book was a love story in the style of Jane Austen (I never did finish that story...) and so not only did I have to write about a foreign country, I had to write about a foreign time.
Now, they say you should only write what you know and to some extent I believe it, so what was I to do? Write about something I was passionate about or write about something I knew. The choice was easy: I had to write with my heart. At times, I feel incompetent, but I console myself by reading the books of Elizabeth George and Deborah Crombie who've done the same thing.
|Mexico, near Clarissa's home|
Here are three things that have helped me:
1) Research - we have the world wide web at our fingertips. Anything you ever wanted to know about anything, you can find on Google. Use it. Take nothing for granted. When you edit your work, make sure you have your facts straight.
2) Immerse yourself in the culture - when writing about a certain place or time, I listen to only that culture's music, radio stations, TV shows, and books. The last two are especially important - learn the speak, the idioms, the common terms. Write them down. Use them.
3) I think this is most important - great critique buddies. When I'm in my editing phase, I work with 2-4 different British writers. We go over my chapters together and when they read something that they think wouldn't be said or done, I make changes. I love them. They catch all my trouser/pant mistakes.
So write what you believe in. Write from your heart. Write from the 1600s. Just make sure you get your facts straight afterward.
Thank you, Clarissa! Those last words, especially, are ones to write by. Again, read more from Clarissa at Listen to the Voices. Tomorrow: the Writer from Brazil, Leighton Gage.