Thursday, 21 April 2011


Research, even for a contemporary romance, can prove fascinating and absorbing.  As an inveterate collector of ‘trivia’, I’ve amassed some priceless (and totally useless) gems.  I know what times the trains run from Luxor to Cairo, I know what tiltmeters and geodimeters measure, I know it costs upwards of £14 million to produce a West End musical show.

For one novel (originally set in America), I wanted my hero to be an expert volcanologist who went out to Hawaii, so I learnt all about Mount Kilauea and volcanic eruptions. When I re-set the story in England, Hawaii was too far away, so instead I had an interesting time learning all about volcanoes in Iceland instead.  I’ve not become an expert on volcanoes, but I’ve collected a lot of fascinating information.

I research the craziest stuff at times – how long would it take to walk from Galway Cathedral to Eyre Square?  (check back tomorrow when I do my blog on ‘Setting the Location’ and I’ll tell you how I found the answer to that!).  What's the average day temperature in Egypt in April?  How often does the Eurostar run from London to Paris?  What freeway runs through Los Angeles?  What alternative fuel resource plants are there in America?  

I find hotels, apartments, houses online in my selected locations and study them.  I look at clothes on fashion sites (I HATE writing about clothes, by the way, but sometimes it’s necessary).  There are so many seemingly mundane details which need to be researched to give my stories authenticity.

And this is where I have to say – thank heaven for websites!  Without them, research would be so much more time-consuming.  Imagine if every time you wanted to check on some obscure fact, you had to visit a library’s reference section.  And I know – been there, done that!
In the days before the internet, it was so much harder.  Once, in the 70’s, I wanted to set a novel at a college in Virginia.  Off I went to the library, found the names of a few colleges, came home, wrote polite letters asking for their prospectus, and six weeks later, if I was lucky, got the brochures.  Now?  Virginia college – click!  It’s all there.
I LOVE internet research!  


  1. I love doing research for my fiction or just for fun. I don't know how much fun it would be though to do research for non-fiction and have to carefully keep track of it, cite it, and organize footnotes and such. Seems like a lot of tedium. I never did like those kinds of papers in college.

    Tossing It Out

  2. I agree - the Internet is a fabulous reserach tool and even doublechecking things, to make sure you've got hold of the 'right' info, is a breeze. I really admire your commitment to 'getting it right.' I bet your head is a treasuretrove of unexpected information :-)
    All best, Karla
    PS Thanks for your comment yesterday on my blog - much appreciated!

  3. Lee, agree that research for non-fiction is a whole different ball-game. Like you, I remember citing sources, footnotes etc. At least we don't have to do that with fiction.

    I have a 'thing' about trying to get it right, Karla - my blog tomorrow will explain one of the reasons for that.

  4. This is SO true! I love Internet research, and since I recently needed to find out what phase the moon was in on a certain date in 432 A.D., and what time it would have risen (in China, for what it's worth) I'm not sure what I would have done without the Internet. Probably guessed, since few people would have been able to argue the point, but it's so much nicer to have authenticity when we can!

  5. Ah, you're a girl after my own heart, Susan. As you say, few people (if any) would know that fact, but for our own satisfaction, we need to know we got it right!

  6. Research is so important to making a story authentic. Great post.