Monday, April 25, 2016

Fromage, Anyone?

What's the strangest thing you have done while researching a book?

-from Susan

I can’t say I’ve done much that would raise eyebrows or cause an observer to call a cop. I spent fifteen minutes taking pictures of the garbage dump and some rocks in a small town in France where part of my story was going to be set, I thought at the time. The old couple walking their dog doubtless thought it – and I – were strange.

One beautiful morning in June I bought cheese from the seller in Noyers-sur-Serein whose truck looked unassuming until he pulled open one side panel and displayed what must be 100 or more different cheeses, all from Burgundy, each on a little pedestal and fronted by a handwritten sign written in that unique French script. When I say I bought cheese, understand it was for research. Further understand my French is not nuanced or even always correct. So, before my friend could save me by explaining I was hoping to get names of the individual cheeses, I had purchased a dozen paper-wrapped packets and the seller was beaming. The little notebook I carry shows that my notes got sloppier and sloppier as I tried to keep up with his enthusiastic and fulsome descriptions of each cheese I pointed to. The cheeses were wonderful, by the way. Just don’t ask me to name them all.

The Dani O’Rourke series is so close to what I know that I never had to do anything strange for research. I lived the experiences for real when I was working in the non-profit world. For Dani, I just had to embellish (and disguise) odder moments from my former life. One aspect of this has been therapeutic. In the recasting of life in the trenches at universities, my memories of the stresses, petty feuds, and simmering frustrations have turned into funny stories.


Meredith Cole said...

Oooh! Sign me up for some cheese research! That sounds so awesome, Susan. And I've been there with the photos of strange places... I know I would be suspicious if I saw someone else doing it (but we're not all mystery writers...)

Susan C Shea said...

The cheese research was difficult enough, but then there was the chocolate....

RJ Harlick said...

I'll sign up for the chocolate, but I do love cheese to, particularly French cheese. I do like the kind of research you have to do for your France-based series.