In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For July's author forum, BookPage brought together Brett Battles, Robert Hicks, Kristy Kiernan and Lauren Willig to ask: What’s the most fun you’ve ever had researching a book?
Research is one of my most favorite things to do. That’s because I’m able to turn two things I love —writing and travel —into one. See, the biggest research I do is traveling to the locations I want to set my next book in. And since the Quinn thrillers can take place all over the globe, I get to go to some pretty fun places. I’ve been to Berlin, Vietnam, Singapore, London, Paris, and . . . well, I went on a trip this summer to a very interesting, fun place but since that’s for the book coming out in 2011, I think I’ll keep that location under wraps for a bit. I’m not sure if I could put any one trip above the others, but I can tell you what my favorite thing to do is when I’m on one of these trips.
That would be to wander the city, and get a feel for the flow of things. I watch how people interact, find the places the locals hang out, get to know the transportation systems, look for places that would be good to use for scenes in the book. I remember riding the U-bahn in Berlin for hours, just going around the city with no specific destination in mind. It was a great way to both people-watch, and see how the system worked.
Suspense novelist Brett Battles writes from Southern California.
Nothing I had ever attempted before prepared me for all that has gone into trying to understand John Bell Hood and his fellow characters who populate A Separate Country (Grand Central, Sept. 23). Problem was, chief among them is the city of New Orleans, which might have been fine if I hailed from there. Instead, I found myself snatching moments between 'Widow' travels to walk the streets of that place so full of grace and sorrow.
I have loved almost every sweltering moment I’ve ever spent in New Orleans. Other than Tennessee, I can’t think of a place I would rather be, at least on cooler days.
So there I was trudging through its streets and alleys, narratives and old maps in hand, trying to make sense of a city that had faded or washed away. Books are well and good, but they will never replace those on-site moments for us scribblers.
Robert Hicks writes historical fiction from Franklin, Tennessee.
I loved the research I did for Catching Genius. Learning about the nature of genius and how math and music intersect fascinated me so much that I had to be reminded that I was writing a book.
But it was the research for Matters of Faith--about a Florida family with a daughter who suffers from severe food allergies, how her brother's search for faith jeopardizes her life, and how their parents cope with that crisis while dealing with a crumbling marriage at the same time--that I'll always remember for pulling me in both intellectually and emotionally.
Researching news accounts of children with food allergies left me drained and aching for parents and kids alike. Reading about incidents of intolerance frustrated and infuriated me. And learning about the allergies themselves, the science of controlling them, and the support organizations amazed me and filled me with hope for the future.
Novelist Kristy Kiernan writes from Southwest Florida.
It was as I was typing “bash,” “head wound,” and “kill” into Google one sunny day in 2006 that I realized that I have the coolest job in the world. Either that, or the most likely to get me federally indicted. Leaving aside the more felonious parts of my research (I promise, the only people I kill off are fictional ones. Really, Officer.), I’d say that the most interesting research I’ve done was for my upcoming book, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, which is set in India in 1804. I’d had a teenage fascination with the Mutiny of 1857, but I knew next to nothing about the manners, mores and landscape of India during the Mahratta Wars in the earlier part of the 19th century. It was definitely worth the journey. I discovered mad rulers, warrior women, savvy courtesans, a provincial Hellfire Club, globe-trotting Englishwomen—and a lot of poisonous snakes. They made a nice change from Googling head wounds.
Former lawyer Lauren Willig writes historical romance from New York City.
Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.
<a href=” http://bookpage.com/reviews-10001236-Author+Forum”>June 2009 Author Forum</a>
<a href=” http://bookpage.com/reviews-10001617-Following+in+their+footsteps”>July 2009 Author Forum</a>