Research

I LOVE research. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I know it’s crazy, but when I find an approximate call number and can start thumbing through indexes looking for one or two or ten nuggets of information that will make my books better, I get all tingly. (I know. It’s a sickness. I don’t think it’s catchy.)
When I was working on my master’s thesis I did hours and hours of research. I looked up the history of soap and talked to the dean of agricultural studies at Georgia Tech to see how long tobacco had been a cash crop in Georgia. I researched the history of nurseries and irrigation and I researched the Civil War, slavery, slave dialects, the South and plantations, and the roll of Texas in all those things. It was glorious. I had to make myself stop the research and write the book. I loved every minute of it and I love that book even though it’s been rejected by several publishers. My graduate committee actually liked the book too. And I think they loved the research most. They asked me a question and I gave them an answer. One professor told me I’d done more research for my novel than most people did for their standard thesis papers. I figured that made sense. I was creating people from the past, living in a time I had only read about, but I wanted them to be as real as they could possibly be.
Since I love research so much, it came as a surprise when I realized I hadn’t done ANY for my WIP. I was basing my entire concept on what I thought might be true because of the movies, books and TV shows I watch. Then I started thinking about it and I realized I hadn’t really done any research for the last THREE books I’ve written. Of the two books I have out right now, one is thoroughly researched. That book’s characters are absolutely alive to me. I see them, feel them, smell them. The second book out right now was a BLAST to write. It’s hot, hot, hot and a lot of fun. I love the characters, but there’s a difference to their depth.
I’ve been fighting this depth issuewith my new WIP for awhile.
Today I took a big bite out of the problem by visiting my local library and checking out a bunch of research books. A speaker once told my local RWA® group, RRRW http://www.rrrw.org to write what we know. Her books are incredible. She’s been an Air Force pilot and she knows a dozen languages. She’s been all over the world, including in the middle of a fire fight where life and death truly were the consequences.
It’s easy for her to say write what you know. 🙂
When I was a kid I spent hours and hours in the library letting books take me away to other worlds. I learned about London and orange marmalade reading Paddington Bear. I learned about living by the ocean and the war reading Jacob, Have I Loved. I learned about the Old South and New South colliding reading The Sound and the Fury and A Streetcar Named Desire. (God, I LOVED those books!) I learned about all sorts of exciting coastal towns in Europe reading a million Harlequin and Harlequin Presents books. I learned Arthurian Legend reading The Mists of Avalon.
Today I’m going to let a different kind of book take me away to another world. I’m going to dig deep into the workings of the American justice system. And while my boring everyday normal life is nothing close to what I’m writing, when I’m done researching, I bet I can breathe my characters to life. Carefully, completely.
I can’t wait to get started!

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