How does an author bring in real places into her fiction? Please welcome Emilie Richards, who shares her experiences in researching locales! Read on for a chance to win one of her books, Wedding Ring!
I love doing research. One of the joys of writing is the freedom to choose subjects that interest me, followed by the thrill of finding out everything I need to know. Okay, sometimes I just want to know things because I do. I know, as I’m delving deeper and deeper that I’ll never use facts I’m uncovering, but I can’t stop. It’s either too much fun or early signs of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I’m not taking any bets.
Here’s another research joy. Travel. For the past several summers I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is not unfamiliar. For years our family spent weeks each summer in Western North Carolina, and a son moved to Asheville the moment he was old enough. Now he’s a tried and true member of the community, with an extra bedroom for his parents when they need an Asheville fix. Grown children settling in beautiful places are one of those childbearing bonuses no one mentions.
When I was planning my newest series, Goddesses Anonymous, my brainstorming buddies suggested Asheville as the setting. Asheville is picturesque, multicultural, and unique. The things I still didn’t know could be discovered. Several Junes ago, I set out to see if our optimism was founded. Would I be able to do a credible job of representing the area?
When they begin a story authors are faced with many tasks. One of them is how true to life they’ll need to be. Here’s an example: The opening scene of the first novel of the series, One Mountain Away, takes place at a playground, and I had to write the scene before I made my trip. I described a typical park, with just enough detail that I thought I’d be safe. But once I got there, no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find all those elements. So, do I name a real park to give the scene more authenticity while simultaneously setting myself up for emails like: ”There is no Blankety-Blank in Doo-Dah Park?” Or do I simply name a section of the city and hope nobody’s feeling picky? This is fiction, after all, and my decision will not affect the city parks and recreation department.
Then there’s Trust and Luck, two real life mountain townships that fascinated me so much I set the second novel, Somewhere Between Luck and Trust, smack dab on the boundary. That was the good part, but here’s the question. Can I move actual townships? Just a little? Redesign roads leading off them? Expand their boundaries? What must I be true to? What can I fudge?
These questions haunt me as I write, but what about the big one, the one that makes most authors break out in a cold sweat? What about all the things I think I know that I really don’t? All the mistakes waiting around the corner because I’ve never thought about them? Those blithe convictions teetering on a mountain ledge as I lean over to erroneously name distant peaks, none the wiser?
I do love research. I do love Asheville. I do love fiction and this new series. So what choice do I have? I’ll throw all that in the cast iron kettle of my imagination and stir and stir. The result? A pack of lies or a sterling depiction? I bet my readers will let me know.
To see more from Emilie, visit her website!
Much thanks to Emilie for joining the blog today! Don’t forget to comment for a chance to win her novel Wedding Ring!