Monday, October 15, 2012

Knowing So Little About So Much!

When I first started writing a lot of folks advised me to write what I know.  Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? Problem is, I know so little.
One of my favorite things about being a writer is researching for a new book. I love it!
When I first develop a plot for one of my Odelia Grey novels, I come up with a central theme or topic around which the murder is wrapped.  For instance, in Curse of the Holy Pail I used the theme of lunch box collecting. In Corpse on the Cob it was corn mazes. In Twice As Dead I utilized Drag Queen Bingo. I knew nothing about any of these things before I started my research. Somewhere along the way I had heard about them and thought they would be a fun theme for a book. From there it was as simple as paying a visit to a corn maze and a charity drag queen bingo game. I take lots of photos on these trips and ask a lot of questions. For the lunch box theme I contacted a man who had written books about lunch box collectibles.
One day last year I was home sick and found myself on the sofa playing TV roulette with the remote. I finally settled on a marathon of Storage Wars. Three hours later I had a book in mind. In fact, I’m currently writing that book. It’s working title is Bidding On Bodies.  Stay tuned!
For my Ghost of Granny Apples books, I take a little different approach. Because Granny and Emma investigate the murders of ghosts they encounter, there is a lot of research into the history surrounding the subject ghost’s time frame. Before starting a book, I pick the period of time during which the ghost lived and the location. That’s the baseline. I may research for several hours only to use a tiny bit, but the research is necessary to get the culture, speech, dress and mannerisms of the ghosts just so. 
Both series sometimes require travel to a location, especially the Granny Apples books.  Again, lots of photos are taken and I usually find several people to talk to about the history of the place.  For Gem of a Ghost I visited the haunted Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and was given a private tour by the owner. But not all locations involve long distance travel. In Hide and Snoop, my most recent Odelia Grey novel, I visited the Olympic Spa in Los Angeles so I could get the surroundings just right for the book. To make sure I got it correct, I went back a few times.
What can I say? It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. And while I’m still an expert at nothing, my head is full of fun facts and trivia. Maybe I should try to get on Jeopardy?


Meredith Cole said...

Research can be so much fun--and so distracting... It's great that you can use things you find intriguing in the plot of your next book. Hey--if you're fascinated, there's no doubt that your readers will be, too!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

But sometimes, Meredith, I get a little concerned about the stuff that fascinates me.