I know all about love and moments that make your heart skip a beat. I’m familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of Western North Carolina in every season. I can describe a variety of weather, characteristics, and emotions. So, when I’m writing a romance set in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the summer, I can put things together nicely. What happens, though, when I want to give readers an accurate depiction of the many things I don’t know?
Enter: research and interviews.
Researching for a new book can take on many forms. When I wrote Gwen and the Three Dates, a novella about a romance movie-obsessed woman searching for her own Mr. Just Right (which I’m rereleasing soon!), I rewatched about a dozen classic romance movies to find the perfect references. For Someone Found, in which the heroine gets injured while hiking, I studied maps of the Appalachian Trail and read guides about how one might plan a trek. I turned to Google and my library to learn all about symptoms, treatments, and possible prognoses of acute kidney failure to get the details just right in Say It’s For Good, in which the heroine’s father suffers from the disease.
Recently, an idea struck for a new story that will need to be set primarily inside the emergency room department of a hospital. Lucky for me, I have a good friend who is an ER doc here in my town. I offered to treat him to lunch if he’d let me interview him. Last week, we spent over an hour talking about general and very specific details that I could weave into my story to make it believable. I noted who would be on an overnight shift, what would be allowed or prohibited in the department based on a scenario that will be central to the plot, and realistic emotions that a doctor goes through in various situations. My friend even dictated the correct medical jargon/dialogue a doctor and nurse would exchange while treating a patient with a particular ailment.
I never know who’s going to read my stories, but if a doctor reads this new book, I certainly don’t want her to pause and think to herself, “No way that would ever happen.” I’m sure to not get things right 100% of the time, but research and expert interviews give me a fighting chance to look like I know what I’m writing about.
The bonus? I learn a lot along the way, too!
Before claiming to be a writer, I’m a reader first. For me, my favorite posts from other InspyRomance authors are about their process. If you’re the same, check out these past posts:
On the Hunt for Easter Eggs by Meghann Whistler
Story Threads by Lindi Peterson
Reading and Writing in a Story Universe by Tara Grace Ericson
First Lines and Fresh Starts by me
(Re)writing the Story by Tabitha Bouldin
Do you find these behind-the-scenes glimpses into an author’s process interesting? Or do you prefer not to know how the sausage gets made? Anything you’ve learned about how books come to be that has surprised you? Comment below and I’ll file it under research. (Wink, wink.)