by M.L. Buchman
I write first and foremost about the people. I love wrapping my tales around the relationship dynamics of my characters, both with each other and with themselves. But along the way, I need to plant my story somewhere real. Doing that feels like pure play. It's just way too much fun.
One of my favorite things to do with writing is gathering all of the little cool factoids. It's not that I'm a research hound, because I've met those. I actually had a friend who was writing a medieval romance as her second book. Not a prettied up one, but one in which brothers of the sword died bloody deaths and women screamed in childbirth and all the gritty details. That was her downfall. She was a research queen and became so lost in the construction of armor, the metallurgy and breaking strengths of swords, the medicine lore of the era, etc. that she never emerged out the other side. Twenty years on and still no sign of that book. Too bad, the bits of actual writing I saw were magnificent.
In the process of research, I do try to be as accurate as possible, within reason. I'm a fiction writer, so when I hit a certain limit, I make stuff up. But I do love the exploration of discovery.
Sometimes it is the obvious: a Black Hawk helicopter can carry its own weight, 5 tons of chopper can carry 6 tons of stuff which is pretty neat. Sometimes it's less obvious: what motivates a warrior to make a career in Special Forces? That one took reading a dozen memoirs by former Special Forces soldiers to even begin to get a feel for why these amazing men do what they do.
I went to Faerieworlds West this year as part of research for a possible time travel series next year or maybe the one after. We're also planning to travel through Oregon's Wine Country during harvest time this fall for a new romance series I'll be starting in the Spring called the "Oregon Knitter's Circle." Yes, it makes sense, I think. I'm still a long way from starting the writing on either of these.
Sometimes the research is more immediate.
For my next full-length Night Stalkers book coming in December, Take Over at Midnight, I had to learn about oil platforms, as a battle occurs on one. That particular set of scenes cost me several days and much interesting poking around. And for the Night Stalkers short novel coming in October, Peter's Christmas, I found myself studying Southeast Asian UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
For the first book of my Angelo's Hearth series, Where Dreams are Born, my wife and I visited over a dozen lighthouses around Puget Sound. For the second, Where Dreams Reside, we spent hours exploring Seattle's Pike Place Market. For the third, Where Dreams Unfold, coming this winter, I got to spend a lovely afternoon tromping around backstage at the Seattle Opera, climbing up into the ceiling, wandering through the Orchestra pit, and moseying about backstage. All this while they were loading in the massive sets for Wagner's Ring Cycle. Simply great fun!
I do have to become careful to not become a research hound like my medieval friend, but I have to admit that the nut-gathering research is such great fun!