Today, Beth Cato joins us to talk about one of my favorite topics: research. Just as I've been researching the Spanish Civil War for my Los Nefilim series, Beth spends her spare time researching World War I medicine for her steampunk series, The Clockwork Dagger.
Beth hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.
While you're waiting for The Clockwork Crown, you can get a taste with her newest story, "The Deepest Poison", which is coming on April 28, 2015. "The Deepest Poison" also includes an excerpt from Beth's next book, The Clockwork Crown, and it's all only $0.99.
The Clockwork Dagger is a steampunk series that follows the adventures of Octavia Leander, a young healer with incredible powers, who has found her place among Miss Percival’s medicians-in-training.
In THE DEEPEST POISON, Octavia and Miss Percival are called to the frontlines of a never-ending war between Caskentia and the immoral Wasters. The two women must uncover the source of a devastating illness that is killing thousands of soldiers. But when Octavia’s natural talents far outshine her teacher’s, jealousy threatens to destroy their relationship—as time runs out to save the encampment.
And now Beth Cato ...
On Magic and World War I Medicine: Recommended Research Books
I adore historical research. I actually like it a bit too much--it's hard to know when to stop. I get caught up in the idea that I Must Know All the Things, and I hate that I might make errors or leave out important details.
Therefore, it makes things a little easier that my Clockwork Dagger book series is steampunk fantasy that doesn't take place on Earth, though is greatly inspired by World War-era Europe. My heroine, Octavia Leander, is a medician, a kind of magical healer who draws her power from a world tree known as the Lady. She spent most of her teenage years working in medical wards on the frontline of war, and due to limited supplies of herbs used for magic, she often relies on mundane medicine in her every day practice.
As an author, magic grants me some leeway, but I still need to get my basic medical and anatomical details right. This was especially important in my new short story released through Harper Voyager Impulse. "The Deepest Poison" depicts a pivotal event in the war as thousands of soldiers collapse during a poison attack. Octavia and her mentor, Miss Percival, rush to find the source and save the men.
I relied on numerous web sites and books in my research, but here are the five nonfiction books that I recommend the most. If you have any interest in medicine and/or The Great War, seek them out!
The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum. This fascinating book describes the start of forensic medicine in New York City during the 1920s. It addresses everything from Prohibition's surprise side effects to domestic murder by poison. I've used this book as a source for several novels and stories.
The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. The hardcover of this could be used to pummel intruders. Yes, it's some 500 pages and not always a fast read, but there's a lot of fascinating detail here on the medical catastrophe that impacted almost every family and changed the world.
The Backwash of War: The Classic Account of a First World War Field-Hospital by Ellen N. La Motte. La Motte served as a nurse in France and originally published this book right before America entered the war. It was regarded as unpatriotic and inflammatory, and the American government banned it. That kind of gritty, honest detail made this the perfect book to teach me about the structure and nature of medical wards on the frontline. The descriptions of injuries remain horrific and humbling.
Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I by Emily Mayhew. Mayhew created an amazing resource for authors and history buffs. She breaks down the entire medical network of the war: the types of injuries, and the duties of stretcher bearers, medical officers, surgeons, nurses, orderlies, chaplains, ambulance trains, and hospital care in London. She cites many primary sources throughout.
A Surgeon in Khaki: Through France and Flanders in World War I by Arthur Anderson Martin. Like La Motte's book, this is a journal that was published during the war. Unlike La Motte, New Zealand surgeon Martin died during his service in 1916. The details here aren't quite so negative overall, but Martin addresses the horrid nature of evolving firearms, the nasty nature of gas gangrene, and the incompetence of the supply chain.
* * *