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Author LINDA LOVELY on Moonshine, Goats, Assault Rifles & Ferris Wheels

On Moonshine and Goats, Assault Rifles and Ferris Wheels

By Linda Lovely

 

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I love research.

Like most fiction authors, I find research is an essential tool in my efforts to make my plots and characters believable. Say I’m writing an historical. I’d better know what my heroine would (or wouldn’t) wear as well as how she would (or wouldn’t) swear.

If I’m writing a suspense or thriller, research also is the best way (and here my husband strongly agrees) to determine what type and quantity of poison I’d need to kill a healthy male.

For me, however, research is much more than a way to answer specific questions. It’s a no-fail creative engine. It sparks ideas for new characters and broadens horizons. Sometimes it even inspires whole plots.

If you’re an author suffering from writer’s block or simply feel your characters or scenes lack a certain spark, take a few hours, a day, or even a week off from pounding the keyboard to research. Go to a library. Make Google your best friend. Visit museums. Watch old newsreels. Look at the ads in 1930s newspapers.

But don’t stop with such passive research options. Sign up for a class or event that offers you hands-on experience with guns or quilts, candy-making or martial arts. Hike the woods where your villain lurks. Ask folks who share your hero’s or heroine’s professions if you can spend a day with them in their world. Call experts and request interviews. Most people love to talk about what they do, and they’re more than happy to share their expertise and insights.

Real-world experiences not only add sensory depth to your novels, they enrich your life.

Here’s a sampling of the literally hundreds of questions I’ve researched for my novels (current and upcoming) along with descriptions of how I tackled the research and what I gained from the experience:

 

  • What might I encounter on a descent into one of the deepest caves in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country? HOW: During a visit with family members living in Jamaica, my brother-in-law suggested a cave would make an ideal place to hide a body. Back in the States, I found a website for the Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO). I emailed the founder, who not only provided descriptions and video clips of actual cave descents but generously reviewed my manuscript descriptions of the Cockpit Country and caving. GAIN: I made one of my secondary characters a JCO member, learned about ecological concerns (that became a subplot), and gained a much better appreciation for the beauty of caves and the dangers entailed in exploring them. (DEAD LINE, 1st book in the Smart Women, Bad Luck series, revised eBook (formerly FINAL ACCOUNTING) & new audiobook coming in May.)

 

  • What piece of golf course equipment might I use to kill a villain? HOW: I asked the head of maintenance at a local golf course what piece of machinery he’d choose to defend himself and kill a bad guy. His answer prompted me to visit a rental company where I took the beast for a test drive. GAIN: I was able to accurately describe how my heroine would feel at the controls as she zoomed in reverse up a hill. (DEAR KILLER, 1st book in the Marley Clark Mystery Series.)

 

  • What amusements would be featured at a 1938 Street Fair in Keokuk, Iowa?   HOW: I started in the Keokuk Public Library looking at local newspaper articles about the week-long fair. I made notes about the high-wire and animal acts, the rides, the political speeches, the marching bands, etc. I followed up with Internet searches for historical photos and interviews with circus performers. But some of my best research came from finding and talking to seniors who remembered living through the Depression and attending Street Fairs in the late 1930s when they were children. GAIN: Research inspired an idea for how a villain might attempt to murder my heroine by tampering with a Ferris wheel. Plus the bright lights, smells, sights and tastes associated with the Street Fair helped me paint a more rounded, colorful portrait of this economically bleak period. Love, laughter and hope survive even in the worst of times. (Upcoming novel: LIES, a romantic suspense set in 1938)

 

  • How do you make moonshine?
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    What do guardian and herding dogs do on a goat-cheese farm? HOW: I invited an author friend (Cindy Blackburn) to join me on a field trip, and we made arrangements to visit South Carolina’s first legal purveyor of moonshine and tag along with a group of college veterinary assistant students on a tour of a local goat farm. GAIN: We learned how an old-timey still works. Plus I discovered peach moonshine is quite tasty and makes a great grilling sauce. We also wound up chatting with a lady who actually suffered through a bout of total amnesia. She woke in a hospital not knowing her name, her husband, or her children.) She’s destined to inspire a character in a future book. On the goat farm, we watched guardian Great Pyrenees dogs (guardians) and Border Collies (herders) at work, petted newborn kids, toured the milking barn, tasted exceptional apricot goat cheese, and met a Billy goat and a pot-bellied pig with perfect personalities to join the cast of animal characters in my new series. (Upcoming humorous cozy mystery (with romance) series, not yet titled.)

 

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  • How does it feel to carry an assault rifle and conduct a building search for armed and dangerous suspects? HOW: I attended The Writers’ Police Academy in 2012 and 2013, and this fall, I’m a member of the volunteer staff for the WPA. If your books involve any type of crime, do yourself a favor and sign up for the WPA in 2015. (The 2014 edition is already sold out.) The WPA takes place at a real law enforcement academy. The instructors are undercover cops, FBI and DEA agents, sheriffs, SWAT team leaders, forensic scientists, criminal psychologists, etc. And the learning isn’t limited to classrooms. I joined a SWAT team on a building search exercise, tramped through forest in search of a shallow grave, fired a laser-equipped Glock in a firearms training exercise, watched a dive team on an underwater evidence recovery mission, and searched a jail cell for contraband. GAIN: If you don’t leave the WPA with a notebook full of ideas for plots and characters, you literally missed the bus that takes participants to the academy each morning.  

 

Have I convinced you that research is fun?   

What’s the most fun you’ve had researching a question for one of your manuscripts?

 

       AND DON’T MISS OUT on Linda’s  give-away today !  She’s offering two…yes  TWO   copies each of her audio books.  BUT, to be eligible to win, you must leave a comment.  And then tell all your friends on Facebook and Twitter so they can also have a chance to win  !!!

 

About The Author:

Linda Lovely writes romantic suspense and romantic thriller/mysteries and has recently begun work on a humorous cozy mystery series. DEAR KILLER and NO WAKE ZONE, the first two novels in her Marley Clark romantic mystery series, are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks. DEAD LINE the first novel in her Smart Women, Bad Luck romantic suspense series, is in production as an ebook and audiobook. Lovely is a member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and the South Carolina Writers Workshop.

A former Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier finalist, Lovely combines romance, suspense, adventure, and humor in her manuscripts. A journalism major, she enjoys interviewing people to gain publishing insights and background material for her novels. She also teaches writing courses and enjoys speaking to groups and participating in panel discussions at conferences.

You can Follow Linda or Purchase her books at:  

My website: www.lindalovely.com    My Facebook page: www.fb.com/lindalovelyauthor    My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/LovelyAuthor

My Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/lindalovely
Blog-Lovely-DearKillerCoverAmazon link for DEAR KILLER: http://tinyurl.com/DearKiller

Audible link for DEAR KILLER: http://tinyurl.com/DearKillerAudible

 

Blog-Lovely-NWZ-CoverAmazon link for NO WAKE ZONE: http://tinyurl.com/NoWakeZone
Audible link for NO WAKE ZONE: http://tinyurl.com/NoWakeZoneAudio

 

 

 

 

Susan Carlisle - May 7, 2014 - 8:27 am

Linda,
You have more fun researching a book than anyone I know. They sound like great adventures that have a real gain in them. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

Marilyn Baron - May 7, 2014 - 9:36 am

Linda,

What a great post. I’m also a Journalism major and love to interview people. I interviewed some seniors at my mother’s retirement community about love the second time around for a women’s fiction I wrote called “Significant Others,” and for my historical romance set in contemporary and WW II Bermuda, called “Under the Moon Gate” I and spent weeks at the library looking at old NY Times and Royal Gazette newspapers circa 1940s to find out what was happening during the war. What people wore, the ads, the products, the movies, etc. For the contemporary part of the book I had that down because I had been to Bermuda about 10 times. For the book I’m working on now, Murder on the Repositioning Cruise, I took a Behind the Scenes tour of the cruise ship I went on last year. Doing research is fun. Mostly I write about places I’ve already been, rather than travel to that place specifically to write about it. But I wouldn’t rule that out. I liked your pictures, too.

Piper - May 7, 2014 - 10:40 am

You really got a lot out of your research. I love doing research too. I have a hard time telling myself–that’s enough–and moving on to the writing.

I don’t drink, but peach moonshine sounds like a great cooking ingredient…:)

Thank you for coming to PFHT!

Linda Lovely - May 7, 2014 - 11:05 am

Thanks, Susan, Marilyn and Piper for commenting. Sounds as if Marilyn and Piper share my enthusiasm for research. Although, like Piper, it’s hard to decide when enough is enough. Marilyn, I love that you interviewed folks in a retirement community about love the second time around. I bet you heard some fascinating stories.

Connie Gillam - May 7, 2014 - 11:52 am

Hey, Linda!

I definitely need to get out and do more research. I’ve done the Kiss of Death tours at RWA nationals a couple of times. And I’m doing the Writers Police Academy in September in North Carolina. Looking forward to that one.
Thanks for blogging with us.

Linda Lovely - May 7, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Connie–You’ll absolutely LOVE the Writers’ Police Academy. This will be my third year. I just learned we’ve had a handful of cancellations so if you know anyone who’d like to have their names added to a wait list to attend, have them send me an email to 2014wpa@gmail.com

Ashantay Peters - May 7, 2014 - 2:19 pm

OK, so I’m ready to join you on your next research trip – as long it it involves baby animals, good food, alcohol tasting or lolling on the beach… glad you have so much fun behind the scenes!

Carol Burnside - May 7, 2014 - 3:06 pm

What adventure! We’ve two new bakeries in town and I’ve been meaning to get down there and ask if I can shadow their work for a day and pick their brains. I think my Sweetwater Springs series needs a bakery to compliment Rosie’s floral shop.

Kathryn Jane - May 7, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Great post! I adore research. My favorite was a trip to Budapest. A virtual trip that is. I spent a few days traveling by Google street view and felt so bad that my book didn’t have half of what I’d learned in it!

But the best part was the other day hubby was watching tv and I walked through the room and came to a grinding halt. “They’re in Budapest,” I said and he gave me the one-eyebrow-up look. A minute later the guy on screen confirmed it and I was grinning as I continued on my way.

I’ve also spent a lot of time doing street view travels in Scotland while researching family history… can we spell addiction :)

But I must say, I couldn’t have done the cave diving research, even virtually :)

Linda Lovely - May 7, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Carol–My bet is the bakers will be delighted to welcome you–though you may want to eat light the day before. Bet tasting will be involved.

Ashantay–You’re welcome to join me anytime. I’m thinking the beach is next.

Kathryn–Google earth is amazing! You really can see what a location looks like, what’s near. This is very helpful if you’ve visited a location, but haven’t been back in a while.

Robin Weaver - May 7, 2014 - 5:22 pm

Interesting blog, Linda. Great pics, too.

Cindy Sample - May 7, 2014 - 7:56 pm

Linda, what a great post, and one of the reasons why ALL of your books are such terrific reads (plus you’re a wonderful writer). I love research whether it involves historical research in the gold country where my protagonist and I live, visits to the local police department and jail, or traveling around the incredible Big Island of Hawaii for DYING FOR A DAIQUIRI. I loved visiting the Kona coffee plantations, the beach and the volcano, but I don’t think you can beat daiquiri research for fun!

MAXine Davis - May 8, 2014 - 8:28 am

Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. At one time, instead of beinga writer, I thought I’d like to do research for writers, but when I’d do research, I’d think of plots that I wanted to write about. I plan to go to the Writers Police Academy asap. Thanks for joining PFHT. Your mysteries sound wonderful and I’m buying one of them today to start reading.

Linda Lovely - May 8, 2014 - 10:32 am

Thanks, Robin, Cindy and Maxine! Cindy and Robin. I know you two do a tremendous amount of research for your books. In Robin’s case, trekking in the Blue Ridge Mountains added a lot of depth to her romantic suspense novel, BLUE RIDGE FEAR. And Cindy’s DYING FOR A DAIQUIRI made me want to book the next flight to Hawaii. Maxine, hope to see you in a few months at the Writers’ Police Academy. Let me know what you think of my mysteries.

Gail Baugniet - May 8, 2014 - 5:31 pm

Okay, I admit my favorite was learning to make moonshine. I’ve never done anything like that although we did attempt to make dandelion wine when I was a kid!

Research is one of my favorite parts of writing.

Visiting from the Guppies!
Aloha,
Gail

Sandy Elzie - May 12, 2014 - 5:47 am

Hi Linda,
I’m late to the party…was in Florida without WiFi, but I’ve GOT to leave a message to tell you how much I enjoyed your article and pictures. It’ll make reading your books even more enjoyable…just knowing what went into the witing.

Thanks for joining us today.

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