Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How do authors do research?

Angie here: I'm off on a research trip today to Garnet Ghost Town in Montana. I'm looking for a spot to, ahem, talk to my characters in my next book, Lucky's Draw. As I talk about this fun research field trip, people look at me and ask what I'm really going to do. I'm really going to talk to imaginary people in their possible setting, an old Montana small town. Okay, you say, so what does that mean?

Virginia City, MT
The photo here is of a trip to Virginia City, MT when my son was an actor at the Virginia City Players. I knew it was an awesome opportunity to take a lot of pictures for future research. So I took more than the normal tourist, lol. I know I'll rely on many of those photos as I write Lucky's Draw. But...

I'll be doing a very similar thing in Garnet. I love immersing myself in the aura of my research. I love imagining who lived there, what they did in their daily lives, and wondering about the difficulties they faced. This town, Hidden Draw, is fiction. However, I placed it in a small finger valley that really exists. But I need a town that's less developed than Virginia City, MT. So Garnet here I come.

Today, as you're reading this post, I'm off to a day of historic immersion. My friend is going with me and we're taking a picnic. Why? Because I want to know what it would feel like to have a town picnic. I need to look at similar circumstances to my characters in order to see what they might encounter. The beauty of fall in Montana opens my novel. How much more perfect can it be?

Well, a lot friend plans to play with ideas (yes, play acting), characters, and relational issues my characters will experience with me. She's also a great brain-stormer! Two or three minds are always more able to create the story world than one. And how cool when someone else is willing to play with imaginary friends with you!

We'll be taking two cameras and my iPhone to record our adventure. I'll post them on my blog and likely my Pinterest account as the book builds. Somewhere in my shoulder bag will also be a notebook, pen, and a bit of money to visit the gift shop on the grounds. I'm so hoping to bring back description concepts, potential dialogue ideas, and some unique problems for each of my ladies in the novel.

What else am I doing for research? Going over hundreds of photos previously taken around Montana, reading (as needed) about 1864 Montana Territory, the effects of the Civil War and the Indian Wars during 1864 in Western Montana, and researching more of Swedish family life during that period. I was raised with a lot of Swedish information from my grandma. But she was born in 1904. I need to go back 40 years before her birth to find historically accurate information, though there is a lot more from family writings than I expected. Another issue for me is going to be putting my ladies into the situations and jobs their husbands managed before all the fellows in town managed to get killed off for one reason or another *Can't spoil it now, can I?* So guess who will spend a little bit of time at the local Montana library with stacks of books around her??

Each new book has different needs. But for an author, that's like handing them a favorite piece of candy! I think it's a mandatory element to an author's personality to love research and learning. I know it is mine.

How about you?
Do you like learning? What about?
Would you go on a trip with imaginary friends and play act?


  1. Ang, Sounds like a fun day! I love having visual images to go with the manuscript I'm working on.

  2. I admire you for your dedication to detail, Angie. I love the authentic facts woven into historical novels--I always learn something fun and interesting!

    Yes, I love to learn. Right now my interest centers on the health benefits of humor, for my next book, The Heart of Humor.

    Thanks for asking!

  3. Sounds like you had a lot of fun! :) I recently went on a research trip to Colorado with a friend. It was wonderful. I loved learning about all the silver mining that went on there as well as the Indians and pioneer women. I don't think I'd like to go out in public and play act with my characters. In private, maybe... my stories usually unfold as I write. :)

    All the best with Lucky's Draw!

  4. What a great research trip! I bet Montana is gorgeous in the fall!!

  5. Thanks, ladies. It was a delightful trip. So I'm going to share photos of it on the next post.

    Jeanette, your book ideas sounds awesome. Great fresh angle!