- by Chris Marie Green
There are a lot of things an author can write off for taxes: office supplies, postage, promotion, copies.
But my favorite category is research.
Now, I’m not just talking about buying books that allow me to keep up with the market or that offer insights into subjects I need to know in order to create a fleshed-out fictional world. I’m referring to firsthand research—the kind that gives you sensory details that pop from the page and make your reader believe that your characters are really there.
I wish I had enough cash flow and time to visit every single location about which I write. However, I’ve been lucky enough to do firsthand research for a decent number of my books, and here are a few of my favorites….
- New Orleans
Right before Katrina, I had the opportunity to stay in the Big Easy for twelve days so I could research a Harlequin Blaze entitled BORN TO BE BAD. I saved up, stayed in a hotel, strolled the streets, took tours, and ate the incredible local food by daylight. By night, I would return to my room to get some writing done. I scouted out a home for my hero (see below), sighed over the cuisine at Rita’s in the French Quarter, and poked into some of the voodoo shops, just as my heroine did. The setting was such an important character that I felt justified in taking this trip, and it made writing this book a true pleasure (and pretty easy, too, since I did a lot of my writing while walking around New Orleans, stopping to record my reflections).
- Route 66
Once, when chick-lit was queen, I took off with my friend Sheri Whitefeather to explore the Western stretch of Route 66. I wanted to write about four friends who hit the road for a “Bachelorette Express” last-vestiges-of-youth party, but I became involved with other projects and the book stayed on the backburner. Years later, when I was thinking of an idea for another Blaze, I remembered this trip—as well as all the notes I’d taken—and I wrote a book about two friends (not four) who take off on the Mother Road. You can see a mini-scrapbook of my trip, which resulted in the book ONE FOR THE ROAD, on my main site at http://www.crystal-green.com (go to the bottom and click on “photo album” then Route 66). Someday, I’d even still like to go back and travel the entire route, even if there’s no story in it.
Last year, after I was contracted to write a second trilogy for my Vampire Babylon series, I took a trip to London to scout locations and put together a plot for at least the first book (which is actually book four in the series). It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Not only was I able to take detailed notes, but while I was sightseeing, I was so inspired that I would go back to my hotel and actually block out individual scenes. By the time I returned to the States, I had a firm idea of what would happen, scene-by-scene, in that first book. And when it came time to plot the second, my notes made that easier, too. (We’ll see what happens with the third, LOL.)
Come March, you can read about these locations—and many others—in A DROP OF RED, Vampire Babylon, Book Four.
So what have been your favorite research places? One commenter is going to win an autographed trade copy of BREAK OF DAWN, Vampire Babylon, Book Three. I’ll draw the winner this Wednesday, so good luck, and thank you for coming to the NINC blog!