Monday, May 9, 2016

Hitting the Road for Research!

By Morgan Tarpley

I’m always up for a good road trip, especially if it includes research for a future novel.

In just a few weeks my husband and I will embark on a 10-day road trip up the East Coast of the U.S. We’ll start in Louisiana and drive through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia to Maryland. I’m so looking forward to it.

I’ve actually never been farther northeast in the U.S. than Georgia. We will also go to Washington, D.C. and New York City. I’ve planned out a full itinerary. (You can tell from that statement I am most certainly a plotter. Lol) However, the main reason for our trip is not just as a vacation but because my brother-in-law will graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We will attend graduation as well as the Graduation Ball. Talk about book ideas galore!

Anyway, the point of this post is about book research on location. So, when this trip started forming months ago, and we decided to drive instead of fly there was one stop I knew we had to make along the way – Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

According to their official website, “The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World. Here we interpret the origins of the idea of America, conceived decades before the American Revolution. 

"The Colonial Williamsburg story of a revolutionary city tells how diverse peoples, having different and sometimes conflicting ambitions, evolved into a society that valued liberty and equality…In Colonial Williamsburg’s 301-acre Historic Area stand hundreds of restored, reconstructed, and historically furnished buildings. Costumed interpreters tell the stories of the men and women of the 18th-century city—black, white, and native American, slave, indentured, and free—and the challenges they faced. In this historic place, we help the future learn from the past.”

We’ll only be able to spend about five hours there, but I am looking forward to it. The number one reason is that there is a store there dating back several centuries ago called Tarpley and Thompson Company. Tarpley is my maiden name, so I have wanted to visit this store for many years now. I’ve done genealogy research on my family and traced us back to the 1700s in Georgia and South Carolina, so it’s not a stretch that the man who started the store could be related to me. And it’s all quite fascinating!

The second reason to visit is that I already had the inspiration for a novel set there. I’ve done research of all the interesting places to see in the Revolutionary City to make sure I don’t miss seeing something I believe might inspire my current novel idea. 

Their official website contains a lot of useful information as well as an interactive map of the whole city and its many points of interest. After completing the initial online research, I feel now I can visit and have an open mind for the story to start taking form before my eyes. I’m sure many of you fellow writers have done plenty of preparation before a research trip.

I’d love to hear a bit about how you prepared. Any advice or tips? What’s been one of your favorite research trips whether on location or online? What did you enjoy most about it?

Morgan Tarpley is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also a historical novelist currently seeking representation. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, genealogy, photography, and singing. She resides in Louisiana with her husband.

For more information about Morgan, visit her website ( and blog ( You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Goodreads.


  1. Research trip, what fun, Morgan. The Williamsburg Museum sounds fascinating. Remember to pay attention to all your senses on your trip, so listen for any unique sounds, watch to see if the sunset is any different, notice any unusual aromas, etc.

    You look like you're fitting in a lot in 10 days. Have a blast.

    1. Thanks so much for weighing in and for the great tips, Ian!! Much appreciated!! And yes we are certainly packing it all in. 😀

  2. Have a blast, Morgan! Hope you find some long lost relatives! We once had someone call us out of the blue asking if my husband was related. He lived in Alaska. Turned out we were. Then my husband did a job at a mill in Northern Manitoba and met someone else who was also related several generations back. Fun!

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Sandra!! And that's awesome! I hope to find out more info on my family history too! 😀

  3. Colonial Williamsburg is one of my all-time favorite places! I had a lovely time there with our daughter and her Felicity American Girls Doll years ago. Have a great trip!

    1. Thanks so much, Donna! I can't wait! 😀