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Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Author Insight: In the Name of Research

What is the most outlandish thing you've done in the name of research?

"I had a trunked novel that featured a body underwater in a pond. Thought it would be a good idea to Google what would happen to said body when it was left underwater. DO NOT GOOGLE THINGS LIKE THAT BEFORE BED. …or ever." - Leah Clifford, author of A Touch Mortal.

My husband once got me access to the Yankees lockerroom after a game with the Mariners in 99. Oh wait, that was for a screenplay I wrote on a cool chick sportscaster!" - Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds.

"Spent a morning with a funeral director, touring the mortuary and learning what happens to a dead body from start to finish." - Jen Nadol, author of The Mark.

"I do a lot of outlandish things. Some of them end up as research. Some of them just end up as really bad ideas." - Jon Skovron, author of Struts & Frets.

"When I read of authors who travel to exotic places and immerse themselves in a new culture, skill, mindset, etc., I think: 'Wow. How do I get that job?' So far my research has pretty much been, well, life and an inquiring mind. Certainly, had I been writing in the pre-internet age, I’d have been a frequenter of the library stacks. We’re so fortunate, these days, to have search engines at our fingertips. For Frost, book two in the Stork series, I was able to travel—vicariously—to Iceland and Greenland. I had a writing instructor at UCLA who freed me from the limitations of strict realism. He reminded us that books of fiction are just that. That single piece of writing advice probably empowered me more than any other. Still, the YA series I’m plotting (post Stork) is a time travel story set in both modern day L.A. and 1600’s England. I’m hoping to justify an airfare on British Airways out of the project. And who knows, the way technology is advancing in leaps and bounds there may even be an actual time machine by then." - Wendy Delsol, author of Stork. 

"I went to a bunch of cemeteries as well as lectures on vampires. I wish I could say it was more exciting than that - mostly I stuck my nose in a lot of books. " - Rebecca Maizel, author of Infinite Days.

"In January of 2009, I went to Baltimore Maryland for Poe’s bicentennial celebration. After midnight on the 19th, Poe’s birthday, I went with two of my closest friends to the cemetery where Poe is buried. Together, we waited in the freezing cold and the snow for the Poe Toaster to appear. For those of you who may not know who the Poe Toaster is, he is a mysterious figure who pays homage to Poe’s grave every year on Edgar’s birthday. He wears a black cloak and a hat and a scarf over his face. This ritual has been documented ever since 1949 and, to this day, no one knows the true identity of this mysterious figure. Though I had a lot of fun giving him a role in Nevermore." - Kelly Creagh, author of Nevermore.

 "Watched 'Cruel Intentions' on a daily basis for about three weeks to get the 'vibe' write - and I wound up not even writing the project it inspired right away. Haha." - Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF.

"I wanted to visit the grave of a character in my historical novel, but his vault was fenced off and restricted – due to the fact that it was located on a steep hill above a major freeway in Philadelphia. But… if you really want people to respect a fence, you should spring for a padlock instead of just looping a chain around the gate…" - Dianne Salerni, author of We Hear the Dead.

"My husband and I climbed on the roof of our house and threw a pumpkin off of it to figure out what sound it would make. The answer is 'thonk.' I was hoping for 'splat.'" - Ally Condie, author of Matched.

"Eaten a Durian eclair. Honestly, that’s not the real answer… the real answer is too outlandish to admit to on the internet! I will say I’m a big fan of research travel and can’t wait for my next research trip: a week in the Mojave Desert." - Phoebe Kitanidis, author of Whisper.

"Let's see...nothing too outlandish. I've emailed various professors and scientists to pick their brains about prion diseases, but that's about it. I would actually love to shadow a funeral worker and observe how they work with dead bodies, but I know that's really freaking morbid, and could possibly be very offensive. I haven't quite been able to work up the guts to ask the local funeral director, 'Hey...I write about zombies. Mind if I watch you embalm someone?'" - Lia Habel, author of Dearly, Departed.

"I needed to know the type of military coat, a specific Civil War general would have worn in a particular year (they varied year to year). I was too embarrassed to ask the people in my family who were re-enactors (because this general was actually one of my ancestors). After researching for days online, I went on Twitter looking for re-enactors. One of our readers sent me the e-mail address of her American History professor, at her university. After I provided him with: the name of the general, the year, the season, battle or dress uniform -- he knew the answer in 10 seconds. By the way, it was a frock coat." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"I don’t know if it’s outlandish, but this sure was fun: I went to a high school archery competition and shot my first bow and arrow. You’ll have to stay posted to see how that works its way into one of my novels" - Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith.

"I learned to describe a jaw-dropping variety of sexual acts in Latin, to support my work with the Roman poet Catullus. This required research because somehow Sister Mary Catherine failed to teach me what dēfutūta meant. For Plain Kate I learned to carve a little, but that's not really outlandish, unless you know that I am a total klutz and should not be trusted with anything sharp." - Erin Bow, author of Plain Kate.


"I haven't done much that's outlandish. My most recent research involved looking up a lot of info about sky diving. Fortunately, I didn't actually have to go sky diving to answer the questions I was looking into." - Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year.


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  1. Sky Diving! Something I actually want to try but (1) I HATE the feeling of falling (2) Its jumping out of a plane which is a bit psychotic :P

    Great insights ^_^