Hey! Liz here, with two fabulous guests today! Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker are here to talk research today in celebration of their latest books. Welcome, girls!
Liz and gang, Shannon and I are so happy to be here! We know that in much the same way that book groups are fronts for wine drinking and dirty joke-telling, cozy authors (and their books) may have sweet faces but in truth are rich in deviance, debauchery, and a wicked sense of humor. In honor of uncovering the truth, Shannon and I would like to talk about research today.
First, a little background. Shannon and I met around seven years ago at a writing conference. We were both published at Midnight Ink at the time, Shannon with her Tony Hillermann-esque Nora Abbott series, me with my little-bit-raunchy Murder by Month series, and we hit it off right away. We both like to drink and to laugh, preferably simultaneously (not a sport for the amateur). When we recently discovered that our thrillers had the same September 6 release date, Stripped Bare for her and Salem’s Cipher for me, we decided to embark on a 30-day Double Booked blog tour.
What in the name of the devil’s underpants were we thinking?
Turns out we were thinking smart things because touring together is a blast, even if 30 days is a long time. Shannon, speaking of blasts that take a long time, I know that Stripped Bare is set in the Nebraska Sandhills, which was your home for a while. Did setting your novel in a familiar landscape mean that you didn’t have to do much research?
Shannon: Luckily, I have dear friends there who can fill me in on details I’ve forgotten or tip me about crazy goings on since I left. But I’m not in law enforcement so all that is research. The county sheriff where I lived is a great friend of mine and he’s on speed dial, so that helps. But here’s something that shocked me about Nebraska. Turns out, you don’t have to have any qualifications to be elected county sheriff. None. Zip. After election, you have 12 months to complete and pass an 8-week training at the police academy and until you do, you can’t perform anything you aren’t certified to do. Not even a traffic stop. So the state patrol and adjoining county sheriffs take care of official business in your county. Sounds like a criminal free-for-all, to me. Your new thriller has so many fascinating aspects, Jess. What kind of research did you dig up?
Jess here. I set the opening chapters of Salem’s Cipher in Minneapolis, where I live, because I love the city. It’s interesting, quirky, and underwritten in popular culture. I also set it here because I wanted to ground the novel in something familiar to me before it took off across the country as well as back in time. My protagonist, agoraphobic cryptanalyst Salem Wiley, is forced to leave the comfort of her apartment to embark on a cross-country race to save her mother as well as to save the first viable female presidential candidate in the history of the U.S.
The story drove some of the places she had to travel to. For example, Emily Dickinson as well as those involved in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s play a role in the story, so it made sense that my character, Salem Wiley, would travel to Amherst and Salem, Massachusetts. I visited the city of Salem in February 2015 to do on-the-ground research, a process I love. It makes me feel like a real writer! Plus, it’s a tax write-off.
I’d been to Amherst before, and so called on those memories plus Google Earth. Same for San Francisco. When it came to writing realistically about West Virginia, though, an area that plays a crucial role in the book, I reached out to Facebook friends to help me with details, and boy did they come through: a sunset that cuts through air like ink, the sweet frog song that starts before moonrise, the earthy smell of manure laced with mountain mist. These are details I wouldn’t have found through traditional research. Shannon, have you ever rung up the Facebook hive to help you with your novel research?
Shannon: I live in Tucson now and it’s mid-April, with temps in the 80s and 90s. But Kate Fox is in Nebraska in mid-May, just before dawn, when it’s somewhere around 35 degrees. I asked FB: If a car had been driving 80mph for an hour and had been turned off for 45 minutes, would the hood still be warm? These details are important if you don’t want some hotheaded reader mailing anthrax to you. The answer is yes, though Amiee Hix felt compelled to talk about quantum mechanics. Some people. (Jess here—why is Aimee Hix so damn smart??? Like, math smart AND word smart.)
Below, please share with us your best research tip or leave a comment for a chance to win either a copy of Salem’s Cipher or a copy of Stripped Bare.
Wait! There’s more (no, not knives, you ninny):
If you order Salem’s Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to email@example.com to receive a Salem short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner’s home!
If you order Stripped Bare before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home.
If you preorder both, you’re welcome to enter both contests as well as step to the front of the karma line.
Pop on over to the Writer Unboxed blog Monday as we share The Writing Tips We’d Be Naked Without, part of the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour.
Jess and Shannon – so awesome to have you guys on the blog. Best of luck with your new releases! Readers, did any of these research revelations surprise or inspire you?
Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft’s 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and leads interactive writing workshops all over the world. Salem’s Cipher, the first in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com, or check her out on Facebook or Twitter.
Shannon Baker writes the Kate Fox mystery series. Stripped Bare, the first in the series, features a sheriff in rural Nebraska and has been called Longmire meets The Good Wife. Baker also writes the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians published by Midnight Ink. Baker was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2104 Writer of the Year. She writes from the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson. Her website is http://shannon-baker.com/.
Can’t believe I’m the first to comment! Haven’t had a NEW book to review for a while (currently reading The Abolition of Man and The New Jim Crow), so you KNOW if I win whichever book it is will be on the top of the pile.
Good morning, Barbara Kay! I love the way you think. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You have been entered to win one of two books!
Your research sounds interesting to a reader, and Salem’s Cipher sounds like an interesting read!
Thanks, Gram. It was definitely interesting to write and is the first in a planned trilogy. I got lucky in that the central concept–the first viable female presidential candidate in the history of the U.S.–is playing out on the world stage at the same time the book is releasing. Thanks for stopping by the blog!
Good morning, Liz and all! Barbarakay1 — I’m in Tucson, which is the same time as California this time of year, so it’s still early here, you early worm! Gram, you won’t be disappointed by Salem’s Cipher. It is a thrilling ride! I loved it like ice cream loves hot fudge.
Thanks for stopping by on your tour!
Thanks for having us! And now, I want a hot fudge sundae. With peanuts.
Writers must be thrilled that research has been made so much easier by the internet. As a reader, I use it when I come across places, words, etc. I don’t know in a book. For example, yesterday I looked up a soup ingredient in a historical mystery – swedes. Turns out they are turnips. Thanks, internet! Priceless knowledge! Would love to win one of these books.
It’s so easy to satisfy that curiosity now. I saw a cartoon the other day (New Yorker random cartoon generator–for when you want to waste even more time) that had a bunch of 70’s characters stumped about some trivia because they didn’t have a personal computers then. “Now we’ll NEVER know!” I am forever looking up movie casts because I can’t remember some actor’s name and what else they’ve done.
Oooh–that. I’m a big fan of IMDB, especially when I’m watching a crap SyFy movie and can’t remember what I know the C-list stars from.
That is so interesting, Gail! Swedes. Never heard of them, except now I have. I’m the same way as you in this area–I love to look up new stuff immediately and can, thanks to the Internet. Retaining that information is a whole ‘nother thing…thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting! You have been entered to win one of two books. 🙂
Welcome to the blog! Downloading both books today–just in time for vacation. The blog tour is a great idea–life of a writer is much more fun when done with others. This blog is proof positive of that. Thanks for visiting!
Julieanne–you’re my new best friend! Have a great vacation.
Awww, thanks Julie! I agree that alla this is more fun when we do it together. Writing is such a solitary undertaking for so much of the time. Will I see you at Bouchercon?
Jess, I love that you mention smells! Google Earth (and their 360 ground views!) mean that you can describe a scene accurately, but it’s the little details, like how the wind blows around a corner (like in San Francisco), or how the land smells in spring or summer, that make a place come alive. And Shannon, having a contact in law enforcement who’s willing to share details is priceless.
Isn’t it so true, Sheila? I think that Stephen King mentions in On Writing, his great how-to book, that he includes a smell detail at least once in every three pages of his fiction to really pull readers in. That’s a lie–he doesn’t include that much smell detail–but the point remains: the more senses we can engage in our readers, the more they feel a part of the story.
Sheriff Shawn is the first person, besides me, who really saw Kate as a real person. He really gets it!
Research tip, huh?
Read a lot of esoteric stuff because you never know when a friend will ask a question about quantum mechanics and then you can wow them with your smarty smarts.
It’s the Aimee dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft53kxCxWAE
You kill me.
Thanks, Wicked Cozy, for hosting us! This is such a vibrant and fun place to be!
Thanks for stopping by on your tour! I’m pre-ordering both books!
Awww, thank you, Sherry! You’re gonna LOVE Shannon’s book. It is amazing.
I’m loving this virtual tour with Mo and Kath! And yes, the devil is in the details. No one ever said a book was too well researched.
I swear, Ann, you keep this up and you’re gonna win a book one of these times. I swear.
Promises promises promises.xox
Make it so, Jess! Thanks Ann!
I love google street maps. You can discover so many things without leaving your home.
Because you mentioned it on FB the other day, I took a look around New Orleans too.
Google street maps is mesmerizing. That’s what I think. It’s MAGIC. Thanks for stopping by and for spreading the good word, Dru Ann!
Dru Ann is our trip planner for Bouchercon!
Going to our local county Citizens Police Academy was one of the best things I did. It gave me a new appreciation of police and I learned a lot! Thanks for stopping by and visiting. Great post!
I have heard wonderful thinks about the Sisters in Crime Police Academy in Wisconsin, too. I need to do one of those boots on the ground research sessions one of these times.
I hope to go to that some day too!
I had so much fun at WPA last year. And the PIT maneuver I learned made it into book 2 of the Kate Fox series, Dark Signal.
Thanks so much for making the Wickeds a part of your blog tour! What a delightfully fun idea! I love to research too. I’ve been lucky enough to discover a lot of great resources for my latest book Whispers Beyond the Veil right here in Old Orchard Beach, ME. There are lots of well informed locals and the Harmon Museum, which is filled with more interesting information that I could possibly ever use. And because this is a tourist town there are lots of vintage photographs and postcards available to help me imagine what everything looked like and where things used to be.
Oooh, Jessie, just last night I was thinking of creating an anthology of mystery short stories called, “Just Jessies.” You in?
That would be such fun! If you go ahead with it let me know!
I would totally read a just Jessies book.
All those little things I’d never think of when doing research for a story.
Congrats on the upcoming releases to you both.
Thanks, Mark. You’re entered to win one of our books. I forgot to mention that Stripped Bare is currently on a Goodreads Giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/zn8yvdd
Thanks for stopping by, Mark, and for the kind words!
Welcome, Jess and Shannon! It’s so great to have you here at the Wicked Cozies. I love doing research, both book research and in the field. Of course, when your series is about a Maine Clambake, the research is not too terrible…
Invite me to your next research trip. I’ve never been to a clambake. I’m from those square states!
I have also never been to a clambake. Clambake! Such a good word. It’s pronounced “clam-bah-key,” yes? If you invite me to one of those, I’ll invite you to a Minnesota Hotdish Party.
You guys are on! I am on a William Kent Krueger binge and wishing hard to visit Minnesota. Have only been on business trips to Minneapolis and St. Cloud, which hardly counts. You barely get to look around.
Also, just remembering, have also been to Stillwater–decades ago, on a business trip that extended over a weekend. I remember it was very cool and beautiful.
Both books sound like great reads! And I love to hear how you gather “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”
Vida — I can tell you that Jess has anything but bald and unconvincing narrative! Thanks for stopping by and you’re entered to win one of our books.
Thank you, sweet pea! Your book is AWESOME, too.
I had to look up the quote, Vida. 🙂 Nice one! http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/W._S._Gilbert/
See, this is why traveling with Jess is so much fun. She actually looks stuff up. And it’s not just because this is a blog about research.
I have totally forgotten that a new Goodreads Giveaway starts today for Stripped Bare! Three copies! http://tinyurl.com/zn8yvdd
Yas man, get this awesome book!
and where did this dated picture of me come from? How do I get rid of it. On the other hand, wrinkles-no-more!
Welcome to the blog, you two awesome women! Sorry to be so late – have been nearly without connectivity on vacation in Maine, which is really an amazing experience. Have a fun tour month.
Edith, thank you, you awesome woman! Vacation on.
I don’t have any research tips, since I haven’t had to do any research in years. Would enjoy reading either book. Great article, very informative.
Thanks so much, diannekc, and thanks you for stopping by! You’ve been entered to win a copy of either Salem’s Cipher or Stripped Bare. Stop back to see who won!
I have enjoyed the “little-bit-raunchy” Murder by the Month series! Will you be doing a book for March? I’d love to win Salem’s Cipher!
Haha! “Little bit raunchy” is my favorite review of my books EVER. And good news–I finished up the first draft of March last week, will revise next week, and will get it to my editor by September 1, meaning the book will be out in a year. Thank you for asking, Karlene! You have been entered to win a copy of both Salem’s Cipher and Stripped Bare.
Oooh, Salem’s Cipher is a Goodreads giveaway for the next 13 days (a very witchy number, yes?). If you have the two minutes to enter, follow this link and scroll down. Hope your Saturday is wonderful!
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