Today my guest is the very cool Brynn Stein (if you want proof just check out her blog!). She’s back for another visit and talking about one of my favorite subjects, research!
I’m honored to have been invited to appear here today. Charley suggested I blog about my research, since I’m between books right now. My specific recent research might not be of interest to most. I’ve been on a medical kick recently, apparently, and have researched life support equipment and procedures, care of amputated limbs, coma information, and a plethora of questions about prostate cancer. (In my opinion, I now know more than most women would wish to know about the subject).
But, I thought I’d talk about research in general.
We’ve all heard the advice to “Write what you know.” And I agree with that…sort of. But, I’m a teacher in my other life and I’m never content with what I currently know. So, in my mind, the advice becomes, “Research the heck out of anything you’re interested in, and then write what you know after that.” More “know what you write about” than “write what you already know”. (And I’ve talked to and read about authors who interpret the original advice in both of those ways. Writers who swear research is not enough…that you must have personal experience with everything you write, and writers who agree with me that you should start with what you know or what interests you, but never let a current lack of details about the subject keep you from writing about it…once you research the details.)
I’ve talked to, or read about, authors who absolutely hate research, and then others who love it. I’m in the latter group. My kids tell me I’m a ‘freak’ for loving to research things…not just things I plan to use in stories, either. Someone asks an off the wall question, and if I’m anywhere near my computer, I’m off to Google to see if I can find the answer. I come across a word I don’t know (this doesn’t happen all that often anymore since I have a love affair with words anyway, and I read constantly…but it does still happen from time to time)…off I go to Webster.com. I hear something on TV or on a movie and wonder if it’s true…I research it until I know for sure. I want to buy a new car or a new appliance, I find out everything I can about various models or brands before I even step foot out the door.
So I actually welcome the chance to research for the stories I write. But, I find, I intersperse researching and falling back on the original advice of writing what I know. For my first book, Haunted, very little research was necessary. The story came to me pretty much already written in my head, and I just frantically tried to keep up with my muse as she (or would it be he?) nattered in my ear about what had happened to Lenard and Jason.
But with my second book, while the actual storyline came to me pretty well developed, I needed to research details. Living Again, set to come out sometime this summer, is about a man who lost part of one leg years before during his involvement with the military, but we pick him up after a car wreck where he breaks the other leg and the opposite arm. (Yes, I love hurt/comfort stories, but that’s a completely different subject of another blog, some other time). Daniel obviously is going to need a lot of help during his convalescence…enter Jonah…a nurse with a private home care agency. I needed to research a little about care of amputated limbs, etc, but I knew a lot about the kind of general care Daniel would need until he could do everything himself again, since I’ve worked with children with severe handicaps off and on throughout my adult life (and volunteered some before that too, actually).
The most research with that story was to accurately portray the medical care required by Jonah’s son, Ethan, who was born with multiple handicaps and was in and out of the hospital throughout the story. Again, I could start with what I already knew, build on what I was interested in and needed for the story, and spent hours and hours of blissful research on everything from life support equipment to congenital heart conditions to possible lengths of hospital stays for various situations.
For my third book, Through the Years…which I recently submitted to Dreamspinner, but haven’t actually heard back about yet…I got to do a bunch of different research. It follows the two lead characters for fifty years, from their college days in the 1960s to current day. While I could draw from personal knowledge for more of that timespan than I’d like to admit, I haven’t really been around for all of that, so, off to Google. I researched slang in various time periods, colleges that offered what my characters studied, at the correct time in history. Songs and movies at various time periods, technological advances through the years, and events in the history of gay rights. This is also the book for which I ended up learning so much about prostate cancer.
For the book I’m currently working on, and hope to have submitted soon to Dreamspinner for their opinion, I’m focusing on research of comas and seizures, symptoms and treatment of depression, and a lot of Irish culture and slang.
Fortunately, as much as I love to research, these stories aren’t all about the subjects mentioned above. The research is necessary, in my opinion, or lend verisimilitude, but the majority of each story is about character growth, and developing relationships (and eventually sexy times)… and usually I don’t need a lot of research for that part…the characters are pretty good about telling me all of that.
I don’t usually set out to research a specific subject. The characters tell me their story, and in the course of writing that down for them, I find I need to research this or that. And I love both parts. I rejoice when words come so quickly that I have a hard time getting them all down fast enough. I delight in being included in the characters’ lives and watching them grow and fall in love, and fight and pull apart, and go through challenges either together or separately. But, when it comes time to research this odd detail, or that bit of knowledge that would make the story more real…I revel in that too.
I would love to know how all of you feel about research. Love it? Hate it? Necessary evil or something to look forward to? Comment below and let me know what you think.
Brynn Stein has always been a bibliophile and a closet writer. Many years ago, she found the joys of writing fanfiction, which provided an opportunity to “come out of the closet” with her writing. She enjoyed some success writing fiction for various fandoms—even winning several awards, but noticed that she liked writing “alternate universe” stories, meaning that, except for the names and vague situations in common with the fandom she was writing for, most of the story was original. When the opportunity came along to finally publish original fiction, she grabbed it with both hands.
Brynn lives in Virginia with her two two-legged children, and four four-legged ones. Her supportive family encourages her writing and provides a sounding board for fledgling stories. When she isn’t writing, Brynn teaches children with special needs and edits other people’s manuscripts. In free time, she reads anything she can get her hands on, and haunts bookstores. She draws and paints, and enjoys the outdoors—especially if she can get to the beach—and is always thinking about her next story.
Thanks again Charley for letting me appear today. Stop by my page any time!