Enough of me. Here's Donnell to tell you all you ever needed to know about research but were afraid to ask -- sort of, LOL! Leave a comment for a chance to receive a copy of The Past Came Hunting when it hits the shelves!
When Audra and I discussed topics, I thought--great. Now that I’m a “published” author, people are going to expect me to know something. Unwritten Rule No. 44 is: Author must know something. So, I went into my writer’s cave and hurt my head and thought: What can I enthrall my friends at Seekerville with that will make me sound authorial? And then it hit me, or maybe it was just another tremor, I’ll dazzle them with the provocative topic of research.
Hey, where’s everybody going? You get back in your chairs this minute. Research can be a provocative topic. Rather, it can be if you don’t get it right…
When I worked for newspapers, we were told repeatedly to double check our source. We never accepted anything unless we could corroborate our facts. I think this must have carried over into my fiction career because when I research, I’m never sure of anything--especially if I find it on the Internet or read it in Wikipedia. We’ve all learned that programs like CSI, while entertaining, are far from accurate. And the worst thing an author can read next to a bad review is that he/she didn’t do his research.
Research is a fine line. Too much can lead to an information dump, too little can result in a less than satisfying story. What’s more, thanks to the time it takes to write a book and get it published, your research can become obsolete. Think I’m exaggerating? Consider New Orleans and the French Quarter before and after Katrina. Authors’ settings and probably their storylines changed in the blink of a hurricane’s eye.
It happened to me in “The Past Came Hunting.” You see, I wrote the first version of the book in 2005. It finaled in the Golden Heart in 2007 and Bell Bridge bought the book in 2010. My revisions consisted of a two-page letter, which, after I hyperventilated for a few days, I had no problem completing. However, a nagging voice kept after me to recheck my facts--some time had elapsed. Was my research still current?
I’ll never regret double checking. Originally, my story dealt with the Colorado Correctional Facility for Women in Cañon City. Subsequent fact checking revealed that the facility closed in 2006 and that the women convicts were transferred to both the Pueblo and Denver prisons. This created a plot problem. I had the warden, an integral character in my book, as the head of a now-defunct facility. Maybe readers unfamiliar with Colorado or Cañon City wouldn’t have noticed, but I’ll wager my Colorado readers would home in on the fact.
The corrected version now reads:
The East Cañon Complex where Joe now stood housed seven prisons, from minimum to close security, high-risk offenders. Maxwell had been incarcerated in the Colorado State Penitentiary, a prison ranked level V. No big surprise there. But the man Joe had come to see supervised the Arrowhead Correctional Center, a level III facility.
Two years previously, however, before it closed, Simon had been warden of the Colorado Women’s Correctional Facility, the prison where Melanie Daniels had done time.
So what was Joe doing here? His job, he told himself, or at least what was necessary. Maxwell was a book already read, Melanie Daniels Norris an unfinished novel.
Some publishers employ fact checkers. Ideally he/she might have caught my blunder. But there’s always the chance that he wouldn’t, and later I’d be contacted by a reader. No doubt there are mistakes I didn’t catch in the book. But I sure breathed a sigh of relief when I caught this one.
So how about you? When it comes to your writing, or when you’re reading a book, do you check and double check your facts? Have any of you experienced, like me, a passage of time that led you to update your manuscript? Have readers contacted you about plot points in your stories? I’d love to know I’m not the only one who has this compulsive need to give that manuscript just one more “look-see” for accuracy. Thanks for having me, Seekerville and best wishes!
Lt. Joe Crandall is on the fast track for Commander and not pleased to learn his new neighbor is a woman he sent to prison 15 years earlier, or that she might be the target of a recently released convict. Now their sons have become inseparable. Joe doesn’t need the headache or the unwelcome attraction.
One Man wants her dead . . .
Drake Maxwell has one goal upon his release from prison–finding the girl whose testimony landed him a 15-year prison sentence and making her pay.
As for Melanie Norris . . .
All she wants is to raise her son, forget this unshakable past and move on with her life. . .
THE PAST CAME HUNTING
By Donnell Ann Bell
Coming September 15, 2011
From Bell Bridge Books
Donnell Ann Bell is a two-time Golden Heart finalist and debut author with Bell Bridge Books. http://www.bellebooks.com/ You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @donnellannbell or at her web page, www.donnellannbell.com