Monday, October 20, 2014

Author Carol Kilgore: Researching for a Novel


SecretsofHonor FOR ONLINE_front_500x750_May2It’s with great pleasure that I welcome friend, fellow blogger and author Carol Kilgore to Thoughts in Progress today. Carol has a terrific new book, SECRETS OF HONOR, which was recently released.

Here’s a short synopsis of the book:

        By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.
        As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death—locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of her dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.
        Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.
        The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.

SECRETS OF HONOR is available in paperback and Kindle format.

Now, please join me in giving Carol a warm welcome as she talks about research while writing. Welcome, Carol! 

I love visiting Thoughts in Progress, so being a guest here is an honor. Thank you, Mason!

Today I want to talk about some of the research involved during the writing of a novel.

I’ll be honest in that I don’t research everything. If I think I know what I’m writing about well enough, I don’t research. A few times, this has gotten me into trouble. In my second novel, SOLOMON’S COMPASS, there is a scene where a heavy tree limb falls onto the roof of a small car. 

So I followed my gut and had the windshield pop out. I’ve seen something like this in movies, and of course we know movies always get everything correct. Right?

Wrong!

Thanks to my guardian angel, who’s always on her toes, turns out the husband of a beta reader knows cars – as in REALLY knows cars. Windshields don’t pop out like that—at least not from sudden weight on the roof. She told me how to fix it and I did. Thank you, Tara and Mr. Tara! 

On the flip side of the research coin, I tend to be a teeny bit OCD about little things. If flowers are blooming, I look up what blooms at that place, at that time. If the flowers are a specific color, I research for that, too. I’ve looked up car models and colors for specific years, kinds of trees that grow in an area, times for sun and moon risings and settings, high and low tide tables, things seagulls won’t eat, and much more.

Then there are the big research projects.

With every story, I spend a lot of time on names. Some characters jump in and introduce themselves and don’t lie. The names they tell me are their real names, and all is well. Others are not so honest. Still others clam up, leaving it to me to put the clues together and search not only for their names but also for who they really are.

Most stories have one primary research project and several secondary ones, plus all the minor issues that crop up. I try to get all the major questions answered before I begin to write. Inevitably, I have to stop on the first page, though, to find out some point I didn’t know I needed until I actually wrote real words on the page.

It’s a good thing I like searching for details. The process leads me down all sorts of interesting paths that often add new elements and dimensions to the story. That’s a good thing all the way around.

Carol, it's always a pleasure when you visit. Thanks for joining us today and sharing this insight on your research process. I could research being a fun element of writing, but also time consuming as it could lead you in so many directions if you didn’t stay focused.

For those who aren’t familiar with Carol, here’s a bit of background on her.

Carol writes grocery lists, texts to her family, new lyrics to old songs for her dogs, love notes to her husband, and novels for herself. And for you. In between, she blogs weekly at Under the Tiki Hut and is active on Facebook and Twitter.

She sees mystery and subterfuge everywhere. And she’s a sucker for a good love story—especially ones with humor and mystery. Crime Fiction with a Kiss gives her the latitude to mix and match throughout the broad mystery and romance genres. Having flexibility makes her heart happy.

You can connect with Carol and her books on the following sites:
blog . website . Facebook . Twitter . Goodreads . Amazon

Thanks so much for stopping by during Carol’s visit. Do you enjoy doing research? What do you think would be the advantages and disadvantages of doing research for a project?

48 comments:

  1. Hey Carol!
    I do some research and always wondered if I should be doing more. So I really researched sea kelp for my next book. After a ton of research, I realized I wasn't going to use any of that in the story. Decided to stick to light research after that.

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    1. I never know what I'll use, but I do a lot of research like that, too, that never ends up in the story.

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  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Carol.

    Carol - Thanks for your thoughts on research. It is, in my opinion, an essential part of a compelling book. If a story doesn't feel authentic, it doesn't draw you in. And research helps stories to be more authentic.

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    1. Hi, Margo. I like to put in all the real stuff I can and weave it together with the fiction.

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  3. congrats to Carol on her book!

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  4. I used Google Earth a lot for research so I'd know the layout of a city.

    Congrats, Carol!

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    1. Google Earth is SO my friend! I'm probably on the NSA list for spying and stalking.

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  5. I use google earth a lot too! But I know what Carol means, I get caught up on research and can spend too much valuable time research unrelated things.

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    1. Sometimes when I find myself doing that, I try to figure out a way to tie it into the story. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it can bring a cool twist.

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  6. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one who researches things like: was there a full moon on that date? where/when was the last total eclipse of the sun? who really killed JFK? (just kidding!) I have to be careful because I can use researching as an excuse to not write. :D!

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    1. Laughing! When I get really caught up in it, I'm usually like '[dirty word], it can't be that late already' and then I write in a frenzy.

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  7. While writing my first novel (which I've just finished) it was hard to know what to research and what not. It took beta readers to help in this area. Congrats, Carole. Hi Mason!

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  8. great post, Carol!! Some research comes easy for me, some so difficult (same with character names, too) my problem is I can't seem to just relax and let it flow when drafting. I always feel the need to research as soon as possible!
    Mason--what gorgeous animals <3 I just lost my precious Pudding (cat) this past august. She was almost 21--I grew up with her. my heart is still shattered! I adopted a shelter kitten a few days after losing Pudding and she saves my life.

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    1. Beth Ellyn - I am the same way. Because of that, it takes me a while to complete the first draft. By the time I've finished, I've usually followed at least one new idea and have many revisions to make before I can get to the actual editing process. When I start writing on my next project, I'm going to use an entirely different method and make those revisions and do minor editing as I go. I'm hoping by the time I have a first draft, which will still be a while, that it's much cleaner than normal.

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  9. I always do research. I actually enjoy it, because I learn a lot in the process.

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  10. Carol, thanks again for including Thoughts in your tour. It's always fun learning about the research process authors go through. Wishing you much success.

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    1. Thank you for hosting me, Mason. I'm thrilled to be here!

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  11. A name can make or break a good character and the best just bring a character to life. Great interview!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Maurice. If a character isn't upfront with me, I always know when I've found his/her real name because a little tingle runs up my spine. I say, "Gotcha!"

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  12. If I had to choose between research and writing, I'd take research. I love it. Unfortunately, I can become so tied up with that, that the book never gets written. Have to set a limit.

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    1. Limits are super important for me, too.

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  13. Some things are hard to research, like that car window-popping-out thing. Like you, I do my best, but rely on my fab group of CPs to correct me. They've saved the day many a time. Great post, Carol! :)

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    1. The research would've been hard. The hardest part for me would've been figuring out what search terms to use, and probably would've ended by me taking several hours to call around to tow truck companies and the DPS to see what they told me. Versus the half hour or so total of our emails and me making the change. Betas and critique partners rock!

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  14. Research is so necessary and sometimes is so tedious! But it sounds as if you've struck the right balance. Me, I can overdue the research and then what I find out can overwhelm my story if I'm not careful.

    And I never would've guessed that windshields don't pop out when I read Solomon's Compass. But the fact that you learned differently and made the change shows how conscientious you are. Bravo!

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    1. I try hard not to let the research interfere with story. Even so, I sometimes put in too much in some places and not enough in others. My critique partner and editors have been great at pointing this out.

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  15. I can get so lost in research I forget I'm supposed to be writing :)

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  16. Interesting about the car, I would have thought the same thing you did. I guess that's what I've seen in the movies! It's amazing how many little things we have to pay attention to when trying to get our stories as realistic as possible.
    Interesting post as always, Carol!

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    1. What's that old saying ... the devil is in the details. A writer must have written that :)

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  17. Ha! You sound like me. I look up those kinds of things, too.
    Good to *see* you again. :)

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    1. Same here. You know how crazy it is with a new book :)

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  18. That's a lot of research! Lucky for me, most of my stuff is fantasy, so I only have to obey some of the laws. :)

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    1. I need to look into writing that, LOL :)

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  19. I LOVE the research part of writing a book, and don't think a writer can overdo the detail-checking. It's extremely annoying to read a book where it's glaringly obvious the author hasn't bothered to check her facts or her logic.

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    1. Logic is a whole other blog post. I leap and don't know how I got there, so I have to backtrack and figure it out. Takes way more time than if I could take it step by step.

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  20. Research is something I don't do as much, as a non-fiction writer. Though maybe I should! Great blog, Carol!

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    1. Some days I fill my brain with all kinds of useless information, LOL!

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  21. Carol
    As I was going through old books and (still) tossing away, I thought of you as I picked up "Deadly Poisons for Writers." I was wondering if you had a copy and if people still murdered by poison in mysteries. Good post, Carol.

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    1. I'm honored you thought of me! Thank you. I'm usually more straightforward in my murders, although I once had someone overdose her victim to kill him. It was her only way not to be killed herself. I've never used a poison, but it's possible I will at some point. A lot of writers do use them, and many go to great lengths to find rare ones. I'm glad you enjoyed this post.

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  22. So wonderful to read about Carol's research process. I take the time to research what is blooming and facts like that too! I also look up anything I don't know about (like cars). I think it is awesome that a guardian angel was able to help out with the tree/car scenario. I would have thought the same thing!
    ~Jess

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  23. Hi Carol,

    I loved reading your research post. Not many people know but I write medical romance and google is my greatest friend for research!

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  24. Writing without Google would be extremely difficult. Can you imagine the number of trips to the library? The research librarian would run and hide every time she saw us come through the door!

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  25. Mason - Thank you again for hosting me this week. I've loved every minute of being here!

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    1. Carol, it's always a blast when you visit Thoughts. You're welcome back anytime.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.