Fact vs Fiction - the love/hate relationship I have with book research.
One of the most time consuming, can-ignite-the-burning-desire-for-more-accurate-and-in-depth-information, and can take you on a completely different tangent when writing, is research. I have a love/hate relationship with it. While I love discovering new locations, countries, culture, careers, and the psychology behind my new characters, I can also dig myself into a hole and not know how to get out of it - especially when it involves accurate legal elements and the like. But ultimately, I love doing research for my books, and it is even better when you get to travel and visit the locations where you have set your books in.
I’ve just returned from my holiday to the USA and visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. This was the third time I’ve been to the USA and I was so excited to revisit the places I had written about and Googled extensively. My next book, Price of Loyalty, is a rockstar romance set in New York City. It was exhilarating to walk through Tribeca, the setting where my characters live, and also very surreal. My characters had become so real to me, I expected to see them walk out of the front door of the buildings I had used as their apartments at any moment. (Weird...I know.) I ate out at the local restaurants, strolled around the streets and absorbed the vibrate atmosphere.
Researching online can provide a lot of detail, but being able to visit the venues and experience the local districts enables me to take the energy, description and settings in my stories to the next level and enable my readers to be transported into the world I have created. I love being able to describe the sounds (the continual wailing of sirens), the smells (there was a lot of them in NYC, not all of them pleasant), and the minute details of the surroundings (quaint cobblestone streets in desperate need of repair, playgrounds full of kids after school and their nannies or parents waiting on the side, and cosy dark restaurants with amazing expensive wine lists).
For me, I don’t think I could write about a place I haven’t visited.
Researching new careers is also fun. My heroines are always career oriented and ambitious (a little bit like myself). They are at the top of their game and always want to achieve more. I love talking to people in new industries (music, fashion, winemaking, construction, property development, science and more), and learn about what they do on a daily basis. I draw on my own diverse career in marketing, sales, business development and event management to enhance my characters and hopefully make them jump off the page.
But when writing fiction, the main element I struggle with is the art of balancing fact and fiction. I know other writers also experience this issue. I write contemporary and New Adult romance so I have to ensure my stories are believable, relatable and realistic. To ensure accuracy, I have had to rewrite plot lines and elements throughout my stories on more than one occasion because when I have researched elements in more detail, I have discovered that they were not necessarily viable. For example, in Acquisitions – Book 2 of my Strictly Business Series, when I plotted out the storyline, I originally had my golf course development project in the Hunter Valley wine region being stopped when they find an endangered species of frog. But…when I researched the environmental laws and endangered species websites, I found that with correct mitigation in place, the project would still proceed. So… I had to kill off my frog idea and find another solution to make my story factually correct. Readers may or may not have believed the endangered frog issue, but I am a stickler for detail. I nearly scrapped the book at the eleventh hour because I couldn’t find a reason to stop my fictitious golf course from proceeding. Crazy, right? Then, while out having drinks one night with my husband and some colleagues, one of the guys was an environmental scientist and after me talk, talk, talking for ages about my writing, he provided me with my solution - land contamination from farming pesticides. Brilliant! He even gave me a list of some really cool, long and technical names to use. Problem solved and book was completed on time. Phew!
On the upside of research is the fun you get to have.
When writing romance, I find it humorous that the minute you say to non-author folk that you write romance, so many of them have ideas and suggestions for hot scenes and story plot lines. With my research hat on, I’m only too happy to listen to their tales. In many coffee shops, at work functions and dinner parties, I have chatted with friends and colleagues about their ideas (none have made it into my books yet) and of course, sex - the realities, the choreography, positions, technicalities and favourite locations. All resulting in barrels of laughs. I do have a fun job.
For Distractions – my New Adult College romance, I revisited my old stomping ground and university in Toowoomba, QLD. The changes to the campus were eye-opening. New buildings, old ones knocked down, so much more development in and around the city. I walked around the campus, the library and visited my old residential college. I was heartbroken when I found the old on-campus pub/club had been torn down and turned into a carpark. So seeing the place again after so many years enabled me to update and modernise the area in my mind and writing. As I managed to get a fair bit of local publicity for this book, doing the accurate research and using real world locations helped in getting media coverage.
For Propositions – Book 1 of my Strictly Business Series – visiting Sydney, NSW and the Hunter Valley again was a highlight. I love Sydney and the area around Darling Harbour is simply beautiful. Walking the boardwalk and feeling the planks beneath your feet, eating ice-cream overlooking the shimmering water, and having a glass of wine (or a bottle) while watching the sun set in the west is spectacular.
Since writing Propositions, I have learned a great deal about world building and thoroughly enjoy being able to embed the reader into my stories. The ability to create fictitious places like my vineyard “Gumtrees Winery” in the Hunter Valley, becomes visually real when all the elements are described accurately, consistently and can be associated with real places I’ve been to, like Harrigans Irish Pub and the Hunter Valley Gardens. I’ve had a good laugh when people who have read Propositions, who live or have visited the Hunter Valley, have asked which actual vineyard “Gumtrees” is based on. I feel bad when I have to say that it is totally a figment of my imagination.
I am fortunate I have been able to travel a lot and have visited many exciting places. Being able to draw on my own personal experiences helps me to add depth and detail into my writing. More travel is already in the planning stages. But… I’m not sure if my husband will ever let me go back to New York after all the shopping I did. (Oops!) But I assure you… it was all in the name of research.
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Propositions – Strictly Business Book 1
No strings attached ... or so she thought.
Following years of sacrifice and struggle, Jessica Mason now co-owns a successful marketing agency in Sydney. All Jessica wants to do is focus on growing her business and maintain the lifestyle she's worked so hard to achieve. But everything changes when her agency wins a major contract for the opening of the new Somers Hotel and she has to take on the account.
Nate Somers is a workaholic trying to please his retiring father. When he meets captivating, go-getting Jessica, the prospect of a short-term love affair sounds like a proposition he'd be crazy to decline.
But when Jessica spends a weekend away at her favourite vineyard retreat, she runs into Troy Smith, the ex-boyfriend who left her broken and vulnerable years ago. Things don't go to plan when the well-kept secrets from her past are revealed and Troy starts weaving his way back into her life.
With her business at stake and hearts at risk, Jessica's future is destined to change. Who will end up making Jessica a proposition she simply cannot refuse?