Chickens, Eggs and a Giveaway

Jessie: In New Hampshire, surrounded by family

I know that I have previously mentioned on the blog that one of my favorite parts of my job as a novelist is the research. That pleasure has only increased since I turned my attention and efforts to writing historical fiction several years ago. But something I am not sure that I have mentioned, is how my research influences my life and the experiences I begin to wish for, and vice versa.

It feels a bit of a chicken and egg situaton. Do I have a notion for a story and a desire to dive headlong into a topic because the interest lay latent within me already? Or does the rabbit hole of research spark fresh questions and notions that blossom into new curiosity and urges?

Many examples of this spring to my mind as I recall books I have written over the years but the one that occurred most recently pertains to painting. For some reason or other that I cannot for the life of me recall, I decided to make the character of Charles Jarvis, a country solicitor in my Beryl and Edwina mysteries, an enthusiastic watercolorist. It is not a major point in the early novels but it has allowed for the occassinal dropping of clues and provides insight into his feelings for Edwina.

But as the series has gone on I found myself repeatedly researching the sorts of tools and techniques Charles would employ as he pursued his passion. I discovered the kinds of brushes and easels that would have been available in the early 1920s. I looked up antique paint palettes and types of paper. I found myself drawn to online exhibits of watercolor paintings. I downloaded an app on my phone that sends me an image of a painting to view each day at noon.

Before I quite knew what had happened I bought a few modest supplies of my own and challenged myself to a project that involved a small watercolor sketch each day for 100 days in a row. It ended just before Mother’s Day 2020. When asked how I wished to be feted by my family I surprised myself by requesting a gift of an easel and oil paints. Like Charles, I ended up painting out-of-doors more often than not. Like Charles, I possess more enthusiasm than skill.

But I have high hopes for us both. In my upcoming release, Murder in an English Glade, I was taken with the notion to send him to an artists’ colony where he improves his skill set simply by being in the presence of other painters. Not long after I completed the final page proofs for that particular novel I surprised myself by signing up for a plein air watercolor class. Perhaps it will work as much magic on me as the colony has for Charles.

I still wonder if Charles paints because I wanted to, or if I have started because his passion intrigued me. In the end it, it likely doesn’t matter so long as both the books, and my life, are the better because of it.

Readers, do you find yourself drawn to books that cover topics that already interest you? Or do you stumble into new interests by dint of your reading? Both? I have ARCs of Murder in an English Glade to give away to three randomly selected commenters.

65 Thoughts

  1. Excellent question! Upon reflection, I’d have to say I read about both known and unknown topics and locations depending on my mood or the weather. Reading about outdoor summer activities in the dead of winter is like a mini vacation.

    1. I totally understand the mini-vacation! When I am writing a novel it is often during a different season than the one in which the book is set and it feels a bit like a vacation to me too!

  2. Some of both. I don’t knit or crochet but I enjoy reading about it. I really love reading books about places that I have been to and hope to recognize places that I have visited or at least heard about. Other books make me want to visit, like New Orleans, San Francisco and anyplace in Italy. Thank you so much for this chance! pgenest57 at aol dot com

    1. I love reading books set in places I have visited too! It is fun to puzzle out the places mentioned or which might have inspired the fictional ones!

  3. I’ll read anything concerning the book trade or set in academia (or at least try it — I’ve had to abandon a few.) When a book offers a new interest, how much I like it depends on how it’s handled. Blasphemy warning –> I did not want to know as much about campanology as Dorothy L. Sayers wanted to teach me in The Nine Tailors.

  4. Isn’t that interesting to think about! Well, I do love mysteries that have good recipes in them and I love to cook, so I guess I’d have to say a little of both. But I can definitely see how a character could inspire me to try something new, and painting sure sounds like fun! I hope you’ll share some of your art with us!

  5. Hi Jessie, I love the photo of your painting set up–and the beauty beyond your window! I can almost smell the paint. And what a terrific way to experience what painting is like for Charles. Thanks for the bright start to my day!

  6. What a lovely essay, Jessie. Enjoy the peace and meditation painting brings. Looks like you have wonderful inspiration outside your window.

    To answer your question. Both. I like to discover how authors use my current interests to fuel their plots, but I have been known to read a book or two and think, “Hey, I could do that, sounds like fun!”

  7. Your photo makes painting look so enticing! I think what draws me to a book is something that already interests me buy what keeps me through an entire series is an exploration of topics new to me.

    1. Thanks, Anne Marie! I can completely understand your outlook on what draws you in vs. what keeps you hooked. I bet a lot of readers experience the same thing!

  8. I am definitely both. I always want to read more about subjects that interest me, and it’s not uncommon for me to discover new things from books. And I love that you’re painting! I’m always impressed by people who can make art.

  9. IT’s very enjoyable to have like interests or hobbies (past & present) or places you have been in a book because it’s like you can relate & possible learn something new or call up fond memories of a time and place. It’s also a way to explore a possible new interest or peak your interest of a place that may end up on your want to go to list. Personally, I have found new aspects of a hobby I enjoy as well as new avenues to explore as well as places I have been and others I can’t wait to get to through the books I have read.

    For me, the day you don’t learn something – no matter how small – is a very boring day for sure. So why not combine something you love to do – like reading – with that learning process? Sounds like a wonderful way to fill that urge to get lost in a book with the desire to learn something new or to use the old brain cells to remember something old.

    Love your books and can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Murder in an English Glade” to find out what adventures Beryl and Brit can lead me on this time. Thank you for the chance to win a copy! Shared but hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkanas dot net

  10. I am someone who looks for books that include my interests and I so wish I could paint. Charles is dear to me, as he shares my love of art and is not totally confident in his abilities and a bit shy! Good for you Jessie taking the class and pursuing your interest in art. I just read a TED Talk from Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith about energy and rest. She talked about six types of rest: physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional and spiritual rest. About the creative rest she said, ” This type of rest is especially important for anyone who must solve problems or brainstorm new ideas….creative rest isn’t simply about appreciating nature; it also includes enjoying the arts.” I take from her “talk” that attempting to be artistic is restful and important. And, if you want to read more about what she said, it is from her TEDxAtlanta Talk. I am so looking forward to Beryl and Edwina’s next adventure!

  11. From the glimpse of your watercolor, I think you have more talent than you give yourself credit for. My hope now is to someday have one of your paintings hanging in my house.

    1. Aww! That is so sweet, Sherry! Maybe one day I will have something of value to share. For now, I am enjoying dabbling and puttering about!

  12. I’d have to say a little bit of both. I’ve been drawn to a character because I have an interest in their hobby/profession, but I’ve also read something and thought, “Hey, that sounds interesting.”

    I’m impressed by the painting. I have no art skills whatsoever.

  13. I think it could be a little of both but more often it is I get curious and interested in something that I’ve read about. I think that’s just one way that reading broadens our minds and increases our knowledge, by opening doors to new interests and our minds to a wide range of possibilities. Sometimes it can be so subtle that we can’t put our finger on exactly when or where that spark occured and other times it about as subtle as that proverbial bull in that china shop.

  14. For me, it’s a little bit of both. It’s fun to read a book that features my hobby and it’s excited to read about other hobbies that may spark an interest.

  15. I am drawn to books about my interests, but also new hobbies, etc. Who knows? I may try something new.

  16. I enjoy books that allow me to vicariously enjoy and learn skills, crafts and careers I have no intention of pursuing and visiting places I never plan to go. I also like books set in places I am familiar with–as long as the author gets it right!

  17. From the title, I was expecting to read about backyard chickens, which a niece and a friend have, and share the BEST eggs from them. Perhaps an interest for another day. Artwork is even more fascinating, a way to communicate place and story, preceding written language and still enhancing it. I gave students extra credit for relevant illustrations on their papers, a surprise to some who had been reprimanded or penalized by other teachers for doodling on their work. Our library had a few painting events, and they were wonderful fun. I have hung my work to enjoy, even if not fantabulous. Amy Stewart has done some online classes, emphasizing that talent comes with work and practice, for which we’ve had the time, so why not try?

    1. Farm-fresh eggs are the best! My sister raised chickens for years and I always loved things she baked with them. And I love your extra credit policy! Your students are lucky to have you!

  18. Overall I probably go more for the books with themes I already like. But I also enjoy learning about new things while reading. I may find a new interest that way.

  19. I’m definitely drawn to books that already match my interests. But there are times I get interested in a topic because of a book I’ve read.

    Thanks for sharing how are has interested you, or your interest for art has infused your books. I always enjoy these behind the scenes glimpses.

  20. I do gravitate to books that feature subjects or hobbies that interest me. But I also like to read about other subjects and sometimes I discover a craft I might want to try.

  21. I always love to hear about the research that goes into your books! That’s so cool you learned so much about water color and found a new hobby in the process. Looking forward to the next adventures of Beryl and Edwina!

  22. How very lovely. I’ve read books that have a hobby I enjoy but I don’t seem to enjoy reading them as much. I do enjoy reading hobbies that I don’t have yet and giving them a try though. I love how you did the 100 day project! Congratulations!! Love your series and can’t wait for Beryl and Edwina’s next adventure.

  23. I certainly go toward topics I’m familiar with, but I love learning about new things, too. Keep up the super work, Jessie. 👍

  24. I read books that share my interests, but I also read those that don’t.

  25. Hi!
    I’m also a both type of a person. I’ll certainly reach first for things I know and have interest in. I do also reach for things that are not currently a part of my life and are creating a buzz in my noggin. It’s great to add to what’s already there. Keeps things and life from becoming stale.

  26. I love your description of a buzz in the noggin! It feels that way to me too!

  27. Thank you for such a fabulous post. I would say both. I am not sure that I can pick one over the other. Thank you for the opportunity.

  28. Both for sure. I’m drawn to culinary mysteries because I love to bake and try new recipes, but I LOVE mysteries of all kinds and have picked up new hobbies because of the books I’ve stumbled upon. It’s great to have a whole new world opened up, but at the same time… I’m running out of room for all of my new supplies! Lol. We started oil painting last year and don’t have a room for it, so here it sits in front of our fireplace in the living room. Lol…we don’t have people over anymore anyway. I’m game for some more hobbies. Charles sounds like a lot of fun, can’t wait to meet him!

  29. I definitely enjoy books to learn more about unknown subjects….i.e. gardening, running a b &b. Portrait painting etc. It’s very fun and shakes meoiut of any lethargy from the same books. Also thank you for the chance to read your series through a contest !!!

  30. More of a met-an-author, read-the-book, started-reviewing here. BEWARE of academics. Some of them may be able to write, but they tend not to edit and leave their recruited reviewer doing more proofreading and editing than reading and reviewing.

  31. Both! I always like learning new things, and sometimes, a book brings up some interest I’ve let fade.
    By the by, I love these books. The characters are such fun.

  32. I love reading books about things I do in real life. So when I see mysteries that have quilts, garage sales, and antiques. They get my attention.🥰
    Your book looks wonderful and I love your books!!

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