Researching a novel, by Mae Clair

I have something fun for you again today. Mae Clair and I are blogging about researching your novel today. You know the drill, my post will appear at From the Pen of Mae Clair.

Settings, Research and the Mothman by Mae Clair

 

A huge thanks to C. S. Boyack for inviting me to be a guest on his highly entertaining blog. I’m not sure where or when we originally connected in the blogosphere, but I’ve found he’s always got some interesting slice-of-life musing or observation to share. Craig is also a guest on my blog, From the Pen of Mae Clair today, so be sure to hop over and give him a shout-out if you can!

 

As an author, I primarily write romantic suspense and mysteries, but I’ve got a strong slant for most things mythical. I’m also mildly obsessed with folklore, cryptozoology (think Nessie and Big Foot) and urban legends. Every Monday I run a post called “Mythical Monday,” in which I blog about some aspect of the ethereal world, or shine the spotlight on a beastie of legend.

 

And that leads me to my topic for today. Strange as the segue may seem, I wanted to share some thoughts on research. I presently have four releases on the market with a fifth, MYTH AND MAGIC, due to publish on June 9th through the Lyrical Press imprint of Kensington Publishing. With each of those novels, I created fictional settings and towns. I never wanted to use an actual “place” because that would involve research. Ugh!

But a while back, I developed an idea for a novel spun around the legend of the Mothman. Remember that cryptozoology thing I mentioned? Well, for those who might not be familiar, the Mothman is a winged humanoid (cryptid) who plagued Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966-1967. You might remember the Mothman Chronicles with Richard Gere—a movie based on the bestselling book by John Keel. Hundreds of people reported seeing the Mothman in Point Pleasant, and also among the abandoned buildings and “igloos” of a nearby old WWII munitions storage facility. Now a wildlife management area, that facility is known locally as “The TNT.”

How could I realistically write a book about the Mothman without visiting Point Pleasant? Sure I could research the area online, haunt Google Earth sites, and read all the books I could get my hands on—all of which I did. But without visiting Point Pleasant and the TNT, I felt I couldn’t accurately capture the flavor of the area. For the first time, I would be writing a novel with an established town as the setting, and I wanted to do it justice.

So I convinced my husband we should take an extended weekend trip to Point Pleasant. You won’t find touristy attractions there, or hotels catering to spa-like leisure activities, but you will find a town that has changed dramatically since 1967.

It isn’t just the legend of the Mothman that haunts the area, but also the memory of the Silver Bridge—an eyebar suspension bridge that spanned the Ohio River between Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio. On December 15, 1967, at the height of rush hour traffic, that bridge collapsed into the icy river below, claiming 46 lives.

For someone who routinely fictionalized settings, learning to pay tribute to the spirit of an established town and its history—good and bad—was an action I’m glad I took. Fortunately, I live on the East Coast, so the drive was only a little over six hours each way.

What about you? How much research would you do for a WIP,or how much have you done? How important do you rank author research when writing, or even, reading a novel?

 

The book I mentioned above will be ready for submission to my publisher in the next two weeks. In the meantime, should you like to take a glance at any of my current releases—ranging from time/travel paranormal romance, to contemporary romantic suspense/mystery, I invite you to check out my Author Page on Amazon.

Thanks again to Craig for allowing me to take over his blog for the day. Any Mothman or urban legend fans out there?

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:

Website

Blog

Twitter (@MaeClair1)
Google+

Facebook Author Page

Goodreads

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36 Comments

Filed under Writing

36 responses to “Researching a novel, by Mae Clair

  1. Very interesting. I write fantasy, so traveling doesn’t really come up as research. I do like looking into cryptozoology and mythology for monster inspiration. Is there a source that you find the best for this information or is it all Internet wandering like I do?

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    • Hi, Charles! Fantasy writing is always intriguing. I spent a couple of decades writing fantasy (alas, none of it published) and still love it!
      as for cryptozoology and mythology I do haunt a lot of internet sites, but I’m also always on the lookout for books related to either subject. There’s a whole series of “Monsters of (insert state name here)” out there, some other great stuff by Loren Coleman, and a mishmash of books by various authors. I will also scope out Fortean Times, and although I don’t subscribe on a regular basis, I download issues that appeal to me on my iPad. Glad to meet another crypto fan! 🙂

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  2. *Waves* Hi Mae! Great post! I had no idea you traveled for research this go ’round. I bet that was a new, great experience. As you know, I write contemporary romance, so I can, for the most part, create what I want. But I’ve found that as I’ve grown as an author, the stories aren’t just about the characters and their drama anymore. Like you, I create fictional towns and businesses because its my thought that if it’s a real place and someone who reads my book has been there, it would be easier for them to see I got some of the details wrong. So creating my own lets me do it my way.
    With the last two books I’ve had to research Private Investigators and Witness Protection details, along with Maximum security prisons. (Hope no one is looking at my Google history!!)
    With my newest book, I have the setting at a vineyard and winery, but had to research Napa Valley to get a good understanding for the climate and area. Also had to research wine and its process. I’m not a wine drinker, but I wanted those who read the story to get the feel that the DeVine Winery is a place! I had so much fun researching it all. I’ve even dabbled into a little wine drinking and visited a local vineyard for a wine tasting even.
    Great post! (Sorry I wrote so much lol)

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    • Comments rock our world. Happy to have you stop by today. I could probably get into wine research, but I might not be able to read my notes afterward.

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    • Hi, Loni *waving back* I remember thinking how much you must have had to learn about Witness Protection and maximum security prisons for your last novel. I can just imagine the Google history on that, LOL.

      What fun to set a book in Napa Valley! I would definitely have to research online for that one,too, because of the distance. I just lucked out that Point Pleasant was so close. I plan on making a series set in the town (there are so MANY weird things about PP I’ve got enough material for at least 3 novels). I would love to go back and visit again.

      And you’re right….I worry about someone who actually lives there picking up on a mistake I made, but I guess that’s part of it…and I have fictionalized some things. Thanks for dropping by. I’m looking forward to your winery release! 🙂

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  3. I can totally relate! I have a hard enough time making the time to write, much less research. I set my stories in fictional towns, or towns that I’ve already lived in, so I already know everything about them. But this sounds like a fun trip–maybe I’ll end up doing something similar someday.

    I also have a tendency to set my YA novels all ’90s and early ’00s, as that was when I was a “YA” myself. Does anyone else do this? I wonder sometimes if it’s hurting my books’ marketability, but I think it also makes them more real–the advent of social media and smartphones is such a huge thing that I think it’s changed the way teenagers interact with each other and I just don’t know it firsthand at that age.

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    • Boy, I hear you! I just completed a YA that I set in the 70’s. It’s out with ARC readers now, and getting a great response. It’s too easy to use the internet for all the research the MC has to do. I wanted my character to search libraries, and have to use snail mail. It adds a nice tension to the story.

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      • Yes, it really does add so much tension when they can’t look each other up on social media constantly! The internet has given us so much, but it’s also taken some things away.

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      • It depends on the story, to a degree. You can keep some anticipation using travel, and time. How long does it take to travel to Mars, that kind of thing. They just have to do interesting things along the way.

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    • You’re right about research being so time consuming. When I fictionalize a town, I base them on areas I know or have visited, like you. The PP trip was definitely fun, and I hope to do others someday if they are close.

      Great topic about when you set your novels. I definitely don’t mind reading books set in the last several decades, but as a writer it presents a few challenges. The prologue of my Mothman book is set in 1967. The novel itself takes place in 1982. Even though I’m old enough to remember the 80s, I still had to pop online several times to look up popular songs, TV shows, clothes styles, etc. And in the first draft of one particular scene I had someone talking on a cell phone. Fortunately, I caught it on the read through. It was a challenge making my characters function without the use of cell phones and the internet, but I liked revisiting that era. Hopefully, readers will too!

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  4. A bibliography at the back of a fictional book gets brownie points, but I’m biased: All the research I did to earn three college degrees warped my mind in favor of novelists who do their research. My first novel was heavily researched, through books, videos and other such resources, the Internet, and travel (two weeks in Ireland).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christine, I envy your two weeks of travel in Ireland. What a fantastic place to do research. If only I could ! 🙂 Kudos to you for putting such exhaustive effort into producing your novel!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe someday your schedule and other commitments will permit such a trip. It’s more affordable if you book your flight three weeks or less in advance, plan your own itinerary (don’t go with a tour group), and stay in B&Bs.

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  5. My books are based on Irish mythology and I visit all the sites attached to the legends and characters as part of my research. I must admit I get totally caught up in my research, I just love it!

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  6. I’ve used real places once or twice and elements of existing places often. At present my opportunity to travel is curtailed but I hope to have the chance again later in my life. The hills and mountains of Wales and Scotland fill me with inspiration. I think it’s fabulous you visited the town for your story, Mae.

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    • I would love to see the hills and mountains of Wales and Scotland, Daisy. Oh, the inspiration to be found there. I can just imagine the wonderful ideas you’re able to conjure. I hope you get the chance to travel as you plan!

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  7. I tend to use real places but with fictionalized names in my novels. However, sometimes I make up the places altogether. In my current WIP I am using a real place in Norway, and You Tube provided some spectacular views of the location. I love your Mythical Mondays and all your posts.

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    • Life love that method. It provides maps and details, but nobody can call you out when you place the mall in the wrong place. Great point.

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    • Aww, thanks so much, Flossie. And I can’t wait to see what you’ve conjured up with Norway. I don’t know why but that (along with a few other strange places like the Amazon and Iceland) has always been one of those “odd” locations I’d love to visit. There’s something about Norway (maybe the midnight sun) that just fascinates me! 🙂

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  8. Very cool! I’m glad you introduced us to Mae. I hadn’t heard of her before, but I’m following her now. 🙂

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  9. I remember reading your post a while back on your trip to Point Pleasant. I think that’s pretty cool you got to visit the site of the legend.

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  10. I love Mae’s posts about mythical creatures, although most of the time I have to read them with my eyes covered. LOL Most of my contemporary romances are set in a fictionalized version of one of my fave New England towns. It lets me change things around to suit my plots, but it’s close enough that I can go visit for “inspiration”. Now if I could only time travel to do first-hand research in Regency England for my historicals. *swoon* I might never come back from that jaunt!

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