Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Joy of Research

Blechta writing.

Seems as if everyone here at Type M has been out and about recently, and from what I've read, we've all had good experiences, maybe not as potentially life-altering as Charles standing on the shore of the Pacific, but good experiences nonetheless. (I fully expect Charles to pack up his wife and a few meagre effects -- including his sax, of course -- and head off to a cabin to write more of his delightful fiction and in the process becoming an enigma to the mystery writing community.)

In comparison, my trip to the High Sierras in California seems a bit tame.

First let me say that I did find success. The topography (as opposed to the typography) and flora were pretty well what I had imagined they would be. I had the location of my primary plot item smack dab in a wilderness only reachable by four-wheel-drive vehicles moving very slowly, and that gave me a bit of a bad moment, but it turned out to be easily solvable, thank goodness!

So, I'm taking a week off and getting to play full-time author, something I haven't done for a number of months. Also, I'm on a research road trip and I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy that.

Why? The people you meet and talk with. In order to get the flavor of a railroad town in the mountains of Northern California, one needs to talk -- a lot. And to as many people as you can. I'm not the type of author who goes in for paragraph after paragraph of description (I don't like to read it, so I'm not going to make anyone else do it, either), so I need quick hits of local color. What I'm aiming for is small details that would make a local say, "He's been here." If I can do that, I'll convince readers who haven't been there, too.

So you talk, and more importantly, get your interviewees to open up. The citizens of Portola came through with flying colors. I don't remember when I've met a group of nicer and more loquacious people. I got way more material than I'll need, advice on where to put things, inside tips on the town and it's more colorful characters, basically, all the detail that will make this part of my novel come alive.

I can't wait to get back at the manuscript. Unfortunately, I have a gun to my head with the book's cover. You see, I also wear a graphic designer's hat and my current publisher actually let's me submit what I'd like to see on the cover. She's taken my previous 2 designs, so I see know reason why she won't take this new book's cover.

If I can deliver the goods.

And that's the subject of next week's blog.

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