In which it’s bonus day

Since today is bonus day, I’m posting an interview you might not have seen. I gave it when I was busy with DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING and it was posted on the lovely blog, All the World’s Our Page. I chatter about craft and vampire preferences, so it’s worth checking out.

Now, here’s something else crafty, an answer to an FAQ that is seriously F. No lie, I get asked this one at EVERY panel discussion and book signing, so if you’re an aspiring writer, you might want to perk your ears up for this one:

How do you go about doing research?

It’s a big question, a VERY BIG question, and certainly not one I can answer in its entirety unless I wrote a book–which I have no plans of doing. But I can give you one down and dirty tip that you might not hear every day:

Start with the kids. I begin my research for my setting in the children’s section of the library. Children’s books assume the reader is completely unfamiliar with a place; they start with the idea that you have zero knowledge. So they paint broad strokes–perfect for when you’re just beginning. You can find a timeline of important events, geography, languages, cultural groups, foods, crops, topography–all the essential stuff is right there in big colorful pictures. From there, you can immediately narrow your focus to the subjects you want to pursue in the main stacks.

The second part of starting with the kids is more subtle, and it’s something I discovered only after years of research. If you can find an author who spent time in your setting as a child, get your hands on everything they wrote about their childhood. Children have very strong sense memories, and writers have an eye for detail from birth. An author who grew up in your setting will give you folklore, scents, sounds, and glorious little jewels of information you’d never find anywhere else. In the case of DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING, finding M.M. Kaye’s memoirs was like striking gold, and there are an astonishing number of writers who wrote letters or journals just like hers.

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2 Responses to In which it’s bonus day

  1. What fabulous suggestions! No wonder your books are so good.

  2. Claudine says:

    I’ve found children’s book very informative too! I work at my local public library and I am especially fond of the children’s biographies. I bring them home all the time (for myself) and my children. They are perfect because they summarize the info. and keep it interesting. All of the important information is there…just a fun version that has great pictures. I can’t imagine reading an entire adult version of a biography. If I want more details…then I can find what I am looking for in the adult version. 🙂

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