The Starting Line

Jessie: Enjoying bouquets of daffodils scattered throughout the house!

I think every writer has parts of the job that really get the wheels turning on new projects. For some, it seems to be visiting inspiring locations. For others, it is overhearing snippets of interesting conversations. And for writers like me, it is a flash of curiosity on a topic that leads to research that leads to more curiosity that finally leads to the plot for a book.

I simply adore research. There is something so delightful to me in indulging my interest and meandering down whatever rabbit holes may appear along the way. I have written every one of my books this way. There is something I hear on a podcast, a bit pops out of a non-fiction book that I read, a conversation with a friend raises a topic and I tuck it away for a bit of a peek round later. Then, the fun really starts.

Since I prefer to write historical novels, I am often interested in where a deep dive into the British Newspaper Archive, The Maine Historical Society, or The Imperial War Museum online may take me. For my upcoming novel, Death in a Blackout, I spent two full work weeks reading every edition of The Hull Daily Mail, from May-July, 1940. I felt like a local, even though I was traveling through both space and time, as I became familiar with the names of the local cinemas, what was considered a bargain at department stores in the city, and recognized the names of Hull dignitaries making the paper as they presided over meetings and attending business openings.

At the Imperial War Museum, there were photographs and works of art pertaining to not only WWII but also to many other conflicts. Even though I arrived there with the intention of investigating armaments and the Merchant Navy I found myself looking into the ways artists were used in the war effort both at home and at the fronts. This led to researching art classes in Hull which took me straight to making the art college in that city an important part of Death in a Blackout. Without research, I never would have ended up heading in that direction with the story. I shudder to think of it!

I must confess that all the research tends to stir up more ideas than I could possibly hope to put to use in one lifetime. I add links to my Trello boards, I fill paper notebooks and I am starting to explore the practice of Building a Second Brain, but the truth is I am reconciled to the notion that my problems are ones of abundance rather than lack, for which I am most grateful!

Readers, do you like to learn new things or to have your curiosity aroused by novels? Writers, where is your own starting line? How do you get inspired to start your own work?

32 Thoughts

  1. I do like learning new things. Just because a book/ is labeled as fiction there are still facts in them such as real places and real time periods, etc. I like the historicals especially the Roaring 20’s and the 50’s when Rock and Roll was just starting. I like to read about the fashions, the music and just the times in general.

    1. You are new to me, and I am anxious to listen to the first in one of your cozy series. I have a particular soft spot for the WWII era; so this may be my series.

  2. Do so love when an author does their research to make the reading as accurate to the time and details as possible. It’s quite evident when they do because not only is the story seamless it’s believable.

    That attention to detail in the book often has me doing my own research about a time, an event or even a common phrase from the time. I think when we lose our curiosity it means we have given up on life. I strive to learn something new, funny and/or fascinating each and every day.

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Death in a Blackout”!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. I love learning. Period. I am fascinated by all the things, places, events, etc. that I never knew existed. And I love well written, well researched historical novels. Even better, I love historical mysteries. Jessie, that’s why I love your books. Your obviously meticulous research makes the books come alive. Thank you for expanding my life.

  4. I do enjoy learning new things from my reading and often stop to look for more information about places and events mentioned in books. Research can be such fun, it can be difficult to limit yourself to what you need when you find so much other fascinating information! Historical novels are my favorite reads, especially mysteries, in a variety of historical periods.

  5. I love to learn from novels and often will delve deeper into the bits that strike my imagination. I’ve learned a lot that way. For my own novels, they have begun from a myriad of places. The most recent WIP was sparked by a growing up in Northern New Jersey Facebook group that brought back wonderful memories of cookouts and lodges and sparked the question of what if.

  6. One of the things I love about historical stories is learning about the period via the setting, character wardrobes, etc. Cheers, Jessie!

  7. I enjoy historical fiction and it does lead to more titles and more authors who thankfully do the research for me. Can’t wait to read your new book.

  8. I always enjoy it when I start off on research sidelines. And you can justify it with needing to know it for a novel.

  9. I really enjoy the research I do for the Maine clambake novels. There’s contemporary research–how are oysters farmed? And historical research–for example about Irish immigration into Maine in the 19th century, for my next novella. I try always to pick subjects I want to know more about, so the research almost never seems like work.

  10. I completely understand! Sometimes I’ve got this scenario in my head and it’s not even a fanfic I’m writing down, but I need to google the most random things!

  11. Quite often I see or hear something in passing. Or I’ll stumble across it while researching something else. For example, while I was researching the events for the fourth Homefront Mysteries, I found out that Buffalo has an extensive collection of tunnels, used for various purposes (escape for mobsters, transporting prisoners between the jail and courthouse, transporting water before modern plumbing, etc.). You bet that will be used in a future book!

  12. Yes. I always enjoy learning something new even while reading a fiction novel. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

  13. I loved reading about your research. As a reader, I appreciate your work and knowing how you go about finding ideas, and what life was like then. I do enjoy fiction most, especially books that make me curious and I sometimes do look things up to learn more.

Comments are closed.