Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Guest Author, Kat Henry Doran -- Again!

No, you're not seeing double...I've added a new feature to my guest author days. At least once a month I'll be posting writing-related articles, and maybe later some interviews with editors. The first article was generously provided by last week's guest author, Kat Henry Doran. It's on Doing Your Research. With that, and our thanks, take it away Kat!

Just because I write what I know, to create interesting characters—and I firmly believe settings are an important secondary character—I still do my research. I love it, mainly because I learn something new.

For my first book, CAPTAIN MARVELOUS, I researched the Rom, or Gypsy, culture. Great fun and absolutely fascinating. Many myths as well as unwarranted prejudice abounds about this often maligned population. I also went to about sources for information on political and social unrest in Central America during the Reagan and Carter administrations. Eventually that led me into South America, particularly Argentina and Chile, doing research for upcoming books which will feature the role of the religious who organized protests against political and social injustice during the Pinochet and Allende reigns of terror.

For TRY JUST ONCE MORE, I spent an entire day making rounds with an equine veterinarian. She and her staff were very helpful when I needed suggestions about the mechanism of injury for a horse used on a mounted patrol unit. Also very helpful were the officers of the Mounted Patrol Unit for the Rochester Police Department. Some of the dialogue in the book came directly from the lips of the commanding officer. My deep thanks go to them.

For Maggie, the heroine in TJOM, I had to learn more about “top shelf” brands of liquor. This veteran beer drinker knew nothing about the hard stuff. The liquor store owner, and a couple customers, were very helpful. The phrase “top shelf” comes from the practice of placing the most expensive brands on the higher shelves. By the end of my jaunt I had a massive pain in my neck trying to read the brand names. And while we're on the topic of The Mag, I interviewed a local eye surgeon for help on a plot twist at the very end of the book. He explained the mechanism of facial fractures and their treatment, including the use of leeches to reduce swelling around the eyes. Very cool and a lot of fun. I like to have fun and doctors are like cops; they're all frustrated authors.

I have always loved Saranac Lake, so I made this small Adirondack town which is about five minutes down the road from the more well known [and wealthy] Lake Placid as the setting for TRY JUST ONCE MORE. I spent many family vacations walking the streets, taking pictures of the “cure cottages” and “cure porches”, exploring the shops and diners to add local color to the story. When I discovered they hold the oldest winter carnival in the Eastern United States, and includes teams playing softball on snowshoes and a women's fry pan toss, it was a done deal. In fact, the first scene takes place the day before Carnival opens.

One of the secondary characters in TJOM is a nun from the order of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent dePaul. Long name, big habit. We called them the Sailboat Sisters when I was growing up. All it took was some time on the Internet, researching nun's habits to add a little color to the story. Another secondary character is the local parish priest. Here's where it got a little dicey because I knew I'd have to invade the sanctum sanctorum of the confessional booth. So, as I'd spent several winters in sunny Florida, caring for a group of retired priests, all I did was explain what I was after and one of them told me exactly How Not To Make a Grievous Error. That priest died a maybe six months before TJOM came out. Man, I miss him.

For some time, I've belonged to Kiss of Death, the on line mystery/suspense special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America. They have several active author loops; on one of them authors write in with a question, asking for help. It never fails that within 24-48 hours multiple responses will be there—if not from the members themselves then from their spouses, children, aunts, uncles, the family cat. KOD is a super example of writers helping writers.
It is my feeling that research is an essential part of any book. It helps you to create strong, memorable characters.


Jenni said...

Hi Kat!

I love research. I get so many ideas just from doing research. Also, anytime I'm driving (which is a lot) I'm always checking out my surroudings, jotting notes about what I see, and people watching is way too much fun!

Helen Hardt said...

Totally agree about research, Kat. I've done research for everything I've ever written -- even erotic romance, LOL. The only thing I don't like is that it takes time away from my writing ;). Great post!


Kathy Otten said...

Research is one of my favorite parts of writing. My problem is I start out looking for one thing, get side tracked into other fascinating bits and I start coming up with new plot ideas, then forget what I was originally hunting for.

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Great post, Kat and Liana. Research is so important --and for me it often leads to ideas I hadn't even considered before!

But I confess to having a love/hate relationship with it. Like Helen, i hate that it takes time away from writing. But there's nothing better than that "Aha!" feeling when you find exactly the info you were looking for.

Kat Henry Doran Author said...

Jen, Helen, Kathy, and Nic--
thank you all so much for stopping by, then for taking the time to make comments.
I wasn't expected so many comments before 12 noon!!
Goes to show the devotion you have to Laura/Liana. It is, of course, well deserved.

marye.ulrich said...

Thanks Kat and Liana,

What interesting people you have met. I think "research" is a way of living. Once you are aware, it is everywhere. It also accounts for my habit of wanting to save everything. Am looking forward to reading your stories.

Mary Albright

Mary Ricksen said...

Research can be so much fun, unless you can't find what you are looking for!
Great post Kat!

Kat Henry Doran Author said...

Hi, Mary and Marye,
thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words. I can't recall if my website address is included in Liana's blog today, but to look for my other book, you can go to
shameless bragging, I know.
Thanks again.

jodi said...

I think I'm always a day late and a dollar short, lol. But it was a great article and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for posting it to both you and Liana. :)

Kat Henry Doran Author said...

Hi, Jodi,
Thanks for stopping by and for your kind remarks.

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Great post. I love doing long as I don't actually have to talk to a real, live person. I'm shy by nature and will bend over backward to avoid doing interviews. I've even stopped working on books before because to move forward would mean interviewing someone. Pathetic, I know.


Sheryl said...

The world is at our fingertips now, so no excuse not to get the facts right. Nice blog, ladies!