Friday, July 08, 2005

It's all about the research, baby!

You Are a Beagle Puppy

Cheerful, energetic, and happy go lucky.
And you're sense of smell is absolutely amazing!

I'm an adorable beagle puppy! Isn't that sweet?

I just heard a rumor that Madonna plans on studying to be a rabbi in a few years. Umm, don't you have to be Jewish? I'm just asking.

My friends in London are all safe and well but I also want to give a shout out to all the people were injured and to the families who lost relatives in yesterday's terrorist attacks. My prayers are with you.

I've been working on my new novel again after taking a week off to rework another manuscript that I've been sending out. Recently I was stuck on what career I wanted her to have, what would make the most sense for the character that I've created. I knew that I wanted her to work for a non-profit instead of a big corporation. I debated whether or not I should have her work in development for a theatre or a ballet company, but I discarded that because a) I've already written several novels with an entertainment background, and b) it just didn't fit the character.

Just this week, I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted her to be an assistant curator at a museum. The only problem, I don't know anything about being an assistant curator, apart from the basics. Plus, I love museums, particularly historical ones. Whenever I travel, you can always find me visiting a museum. Here I thought was a great opportunity to finally find out what went on behind the scenes, particularly in terms of setting up and putting together an exhibition.

So, like any good writer, I decided to do research. The first thing that I thought of was to ask the members of the loops that I belong to if they could help out. Before the end of the day, I had several responses from members of the chicklit loop, the chicklitrwa loop, and my own chapter loop. It was amazing and gratifying to see how many people stepped up to the plate to help out.

What suprised me were the responses I received from people who thought that I had some nerve giving my heroine a career that I hadn't experienced. As if I was should stick to solely what I know. At first I was pissed off, and then I had a moment of doubt. Maybe I should stick to writing about what I know, no matter how limiting that might be.

Well, in my 40 years on this earth, I've been a restaurant hostess, travel agent, actress, writer, taught teenagers how to ace their SAT's, producer, and an executive secretary for many, many investment banks. All interesting and varied careers, and I'm sure they'll all make into a book someday, but this character was crying out to work in a museum.

I thought the whole point of writing was getting to experience things that you've only dreamed about. I don't have to have lived in 17th century Scotland to write about, nor should I have to be a firefighter to write about it either. If you write novels about serial killers, do you have to be one? That's what research is for, the really fun part of writing. Interviewing people to learn the nitty gritty details that can enhance your book and make it richer.

Nora Roberts spoke at the Police Museum here in New York last November, primarily about her J.D. Robb series, but she was also asked about her latest romance, Northern Lights, whether she had actually been to Alaska. Nora said that she hadn't, that she had learned everything she needed to know about Alaska online or from talking to people who had lived there.

So to all the people who were naysayers, I say thank you for your opinion, but remember it's only your opinion. And to all the people who answered me quickly and offered their help, I say thank you from the bottom from my heart. You guys rock!


Kelly Parra said...

Yep, we've all heard it before, "Write what you know." But is that always the case? I'm writing romantic suspense with felons and drug dealers, and murdering creeps. Do I actually know these people in real life??? LOL! I hope not!

Bearette24 said...

The link to the puppy test doesn't work :(

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Try it again. It works now. I just tried it.

Bearette24 said...


I'm a golden retriever puppy...

What Breed of Puppy Are You?
You Are a Golden Retriever Puppy

Tolerant, fun-loving, and patient.
You are eager to please - and attached to your frisbee.

Anonymous said...

Um... go ahead and research. You can write about whatever you want :)

I'm a golden retriever puppy like bearette24.

Bearette24 said...

I'm with Bonnie, research is fine. My writing teacher is writing a novel about Bolivia, where he's never been.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Thanks guys! I'm very excited about this book, now that I know what my heroine does for a living. It's opening up all sorts of scenes and possibilities that I didn't have before. And remember, H.G. Wells didn't know any aliens when he wrote War of the Worlds (or did he?).

Josie said...

I wrote a detective novella about 1940's Los Angeles (one of my favorite periods in history) and the research was such fun! Old film noir movies and plenty of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

MaryF said...

I've only been a teacher and a pharmacist's assistant. How dull! My characters have been cops, archaeologists, firefghters, doctors, special ops. Part of the joy of being a writer is learning about different jobs/people/places.

Nancy said...

Hey... I think research is sufficient! Especially if writing crime....

Gabrielle said...

I saw those posts and had to laugh. Hey, you know, I now live in Paris because I had the idea to set a book here, started writing, THEN fell in love with the place and moved. I've learned so much about life and people just from researching, plus met some great people. The responses that you shouldn't write about something you haven't personally experienced are small-minded. Don't let them give you a MOMENT of doubt. You have to write beyond what you know now so you'll know what you do tomorrow. Err, hope you get what I mean!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Thanks guys for all your comments. Josie, how cool that you've written a novella set in 1940's LA. I love that time period as well. We have a new member in our RWA chapter, Sheila York, who wrote a mystery novel set in Hollywood in the 1940's.

Gabrielle, how cool that you get to live in Paris, and write. It's one of my favorite cities.