That's what I love about history - nuance. I don't believe in unalloyed heroes. Everyone's got warts, and everyone's got a surprise side.
At some point in the idea process, I simply wear myself down and force myself to choose. But here's the thing: Once I do choose, suddenly all the other possibilities wither and die, and thus I never have a backlog of well-formed ideas waiting for me when my latest book gets finished.
Trying to find ideas is the hardest part of my job. You'd think it would be the most fun. Just sitting around reading whatever I want, going to cafes and libraries. But I always feel so unproductive. I think I was raised too well by my parents.
As a rule, I am very skeptical of tying books to anniversaries. I don't think readers care. I also feel that it just about guarantees that somebody else will be writing a book on the same subject, but being a former journalist, I'm always interested in, like, why write about something today? Why do it now?
A writer could spend years reading already-published books just to gain a grasp of the historical terrain.
It's essentially taught in high school and college survey courses as an item on a timeline: 'The Lusitania was sunk; the U.S. gets into World War I'.