January 31, 2011

Is there any such thing as a ‘No Research’ book?

Why am I asking this question, I hear you ask – well, it’s exactly what someone asked me yesterday. In other words, the reader/aspiring writer had written a contemporary novella and felt worried by the fact she hadn’t done any research at all.

I knew absolutely she would have but probably didn’t consider that research comes in many forms and guises. She explained the book is a contemporary romance, set in a fictional town dealing with the changes the heroine goes through after the one-year anniversary of her divorce.

OK, straight forward, right? Wrong!

I can immediately see two things that would have needed an element of research:

1) The fictional town – entirely made up or loosely based on a real place? If you dig deep into a writer’s imagination, settings are more often than not connected to a place they know well or have at least visited. Research.

2) Divorce – has the writer experienced it themselves? Been closely involved with someone who has? I am never comfortable talking about something as emotional as divorce without being entirely sure I am capturing the true feeling what it feels like to go through such a thing. Research.

And it has to be true for every single story we write – romantic suspense and historical romance writers are most likely to have the most arduous research task taking into account police procedures, forensics evidence or Victorian clothes and food. I, personally, love research (especially for my historicals!) but have to be careful I don’t spend too much time reading and googling rather than actually writing some words.

So onto my latest release, Getting It Right This Time, available now from Lyrical Press. What was the research for this particular novel? Well, it’s a contemporary romance set in the fictional town of Foxton, England about a heroine who is mother to three-year-old Jessica and recently widowed. She is returning to her hometown in the UK after leaving five years before to live in Zante with her snowboarding husband. It wasn’t a life she wanted but after failing to move forward with her true love (the hero), she mistakenly believed she could be happy with another man.

When she returns she is a different person than the one who left…

So, research?

1) Mothering a young daughter – my own experiences, emotions, pressures were used to make this relationship as authentic as possible.

2) Losing a husband – this was different in that the heroine has fallen out of love with him by the time he dies but I did talk to family members who have lost a husband and also friends who have divorced. I wanted to truly understand and feel this type of bereavement/feeling of failure and guilt that comes so often with the end of a marriage.

3) Fear/lack of trust – again, a lot of my own experiences came out in this novel. I revisited emotions and situations I would rather forget but were necessary to add depth and believability to the heroine’s indecision and doubt. I hope I succeeded!

Here’s the blurb and buy link (if you feel so inclined!)

Two years after her husband’s death, Kate Marshall returns home a widow, seeking security and stability for her three-year-old daughter. But when her path crosses with ‘the one who got away’…her husband’s best friend, she has to fight the desire to be with him for the sake of further heartbreak for her,,,and her daughter.

A tough, straight talking theatrical agent, Mark Johnston is dangerously handsome, exceedingly rich, irresistibly charming – and branded by the tabloids as one of the UK’s most eligible bachelors. So even though he lost the girl of his dreams five years before to his best friend, Mark finds no hardship is being single. Or so he thought…but now Kate is back.

Determined not to lose her a second time, Mark has to find a way to convince her they can work. But can Kate cope with the media interest and ruthless, money-hungry clients surrounding him being anywhere near her daughter? Or accept that Mark Johnston is really the family man he claims to be?


I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience with regard to research!


Margaret West said...

I think we all put a little of ourselves in all we write. Whether it be consciously or subconsciously. I know I do.

wlynnchantale said...

Ah research, I enjoy it. And do have to remember not to get caught up in the search for knowledge. I use a lot of my own experiences. When I needed to know what it was like to lose a child, I approached a family member who helped me to better understand the loss.

Emma Lai said...

Nicely put, Rachel. Congrats on the latest release!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Rachel, welcome to my blog. Great topic. I think we tend to forget that experience is reseach. Your book sounds like a great read!

L. K. Below said...

I, too, have the same problem with getting caught up in the research. I just love it so much -- but that won't bring in the big bucks (ROFL).

Nice post!

dragonfly said...

I can definitely identify with this. It seems that I put a little bit of myself into everything I write, consciously or not. As writers, perhaps we capture snapshots of people and places we encounter and then reprint them in our stories.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer but I would tend to agree that some research is involved in every book.
I am an avid reader and I like ti think that the information I'm reading has at least had some thought (research) put into it.

Rachel Brimble said...

Wow, I thought I'd pop in to see if anyone has commented yet and find seven comments, that's great! Isn't research a fun topic to talk about? I believe research is in everything we write in some form or other. It has to be or how else could we create a believable situation, character or problem.

Thanks for your kind comments about my latest release too!

Rachel x

Anonymous said...

yeah Carla!
I just finished a discussion of this very subject : research-- as part of Cindy Vallor's editing class!!! SOME research is needed for everything we write--for our readers--
marylou anderson

Donna L Bolk said...

Getting It RIght This time, love the title and the cover. The problem I have with research is one thing leads to another and before I know it, I've spent hours reading. My mind will have expanded but my word count remained the same.

Susan M said...

What some might call people watching is reasearch to a writer. Do you notice how a waitress holds a tray or what her uniform looks like? At the mall, do you take note of the teenagers and how they dress? Does the couple in front of you hold hands or ignore each other?
Will the outfit the goth girl has on turn up in your next novel?
Who knew shopping and eating out were research, but they are.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Rachel. Insightful and well said. I'm not sure readers are aware of how much research goes into every book even when we are inventing fantasy worlds. Research is the scaffolding of all the best stories.
Joy Held
Writer Wellness, A Writer's Path to Health and Creativity
Who Dares Wins Publishing

Rachel Brimble said...

Do you know something? I was really struggling with a subject to blog about until my aspiring writer friend asked me about her 'no research' novel. I am so glad she did! You guys have made this a great visit, thank you.

Rachel x

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I think life's experiences are the best research, but as an historical writer, I have to go deeper into research. Living in the area of the 1849 gold rush and writing about that time in history has helped me a lot. There is a lot of living history here. I can't see why an author can't fudge a wee bit since it is fictional - just not moving mountains or major shifts of certain historical facts.

Lorrie said...

Great post and reminder that there are other ways to research than hitting Google.
I never realized that until this post, so thanks for the info.

Katie Hines said...

With my middle grade urban fantasy, I had to do a ridiculous amount of research: the Templars, the Oak Island treasure story, Masons, settings in both Maine and Nova Scotia, Canada. Also, early Grail stories. It took me about 3 months to read about these things and to do a lot of googling. So, I agree - researching is always needed, no matter what genre or age group.

Debby Lee said...

I love research. I love delving into history books and reading about dramatic times of the past. My writer girlfriend and I have what we call research days at the liabrary. We show up at the library in the morning with a list of questions we need answers for. We then spend the entire day going thru books, encyclopedias and even micro film. One of the nice things is that we can take our kids and we have a blast.

Anonymous said...

I love research too, but am always so glad to see where an author is able to make it interesting when inserting it into the story.

Great Post, Anna!

hugs, Kari Thomas

Caroline Clemmons said...

There is no such thing as a book without research, no matter what the genre IMO. Even if we have not experiences an event ourselves, we have our emotions to draw on from other experiences.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Well, I just thought I'd add this...I finally am writing today. I haven't written for a long while. BUT, I have to stop and research...what? Which colleges in Texas offer education degrees. LOL. It's backstory for the hero and heroine. But I needed to know which colleges she could go to, that didn't include the college he went to.

Lilly Gayle said...

Very thoughtful. And I agree, sometimes when writing, we don't realize we're researching. On the flip side, there's nothing more annoying than a writer who doesn't do his/her homework. I love Robin Cook novels but got very upset with him when he wrote a scene that involved an "x-ray technician." WRONG! The term is radiologic technologist, x-ray technologist, or radiographer. The term x-ray technician hasn't been an acceptable term in radiology since the 1970's!

It's the little things that will bite a writer on the *ss. lol!

Leigh D'Ansey said...

My problem with research is that I can find it much more fascinating than writing. It's easy to get sidetracked!

Rachel Brimble said...

i am complete overwhelmed with the response to this topic, LOL! It has been my most active blog visit EVER, thank you so much, ladies.

I have to say I am loving your library trip with a friend and kids solution, Debby - isn't it amazing how women always come up with a way to multi-task?!

Rachel x