Today we have the wonderful Julie Eberhart Painter giving us research tips. Help me in welcoming her to the MFRW Authors' Blog.
Anna Quindlen, former journalist turned novelist, said: “Each of us has one hundred stories, then we must write on the news.” This applies to romance writers also. One advantage that we have over journalists is that few of us will write 100 novels. But even for the less prolific, research is a major factor. It's also our responsibility.
To write accurate scenes and dialogue that resonate with readers, we must know our stuff. The more involved/empathetic our readers are with our stories, the more likely they are to buy and read our books―again and again.
Writers are readers. We select favorite authors not just for their stories, but because we trust the information contained within their stories. We don't have to wonder if the town we knew as rural and quiet really did have a subway that we were unaware of. When we see that red flag of error, we know we're in the hands of an unreliable storyteller.
Two excellent examples of trustworthy authors are Wilbur Smith, with more than 33 books in print after a long career, and Nora Roberts. Smith is not as prolific as Ms. Roberts, with more than 100 published works, but like her, the details in his novels are accurate because they have been well researched and are sprinkled with the atmosphere and flavor of their venues. In other words, they take you there.
Mr. Smith lived for many years on a private island in the Seychelles at 1500 miles east of Madagascar off the coast of the eastern Africa. Isolated as he was he found time to research through travel, visiting libraries, studying history, and when available via the Internet. Ms. Roberts used her Irish background and frequent visits to her environmental roots to gather her research.
What makes Smith and Roberts alike is not the subject matter or depth of their research; we don't read their works as we would textbooks. The similarities lay in their use of their own life experiences among assimilated facts. The collected emotions: tactile, visual and auditory generate emotional accuracy. Use your life experiences to make readers feel what your characters are feeling.
I write romantic suspense. My background is that of an adopted woman, raised in eastern Pennsylvania, relocated to parts of the Midwest and eventually transplanted to the South. I've been exposed to a diverse group of people in these locales. My work history, from interior design, duplicate bridge directing for the national organization (ACBL), nursing home and community ombudsman volunteering, and eventually acting as a co-counselor in bereavement groups for a local hospice provided me with the voices, emotions, situations and living examples of the people I write about.
I would be remiss if I didn't double check my facts, the correct spellings of towns', street maps, historical works, plus the literature, art and music contemporary to the time-frame of my stories. Even the choices of names is important to specific locales and the generations.
The devil may be in the details, but the proof is in the authors' works.
Julie Eberhart Painter's latest books: Mortal Coil, Tangled Web and Kill Fee are now available in Amazon’s Kindle Store and in print from lulu.com or the publisher, www.champagnebooks.com.