I just turned away from a time-travel romance that was killing me. I needed a break. Because if you want to write about 1890 New York, you’ll learn pretty quickly that you picked a very difficult time period. Just at the brink of a billion inventions! So every other sentence I had to stop and google something. How much of Central Park was built? Did the streets have electric lights (some of them did)? Did women still wear black who were in mourning? What shops were considered the most fashionable. When were Arthur Conan Doyle’s books published? It’s endless.
So I turned to another story, which of course as a contemporary would be much easier. Before chapter three, I needed the name of a vessel traveling from Liverpool to New York in the 1800s, the name of a movie playing in the theaters about the time WWII broke out, etc.
As a reader, I never imagined that every book needs research. The lazy writer in me wants to stick to events that could happen in my apartment, but that wouldn’t be very interesting. Or to create a fantasy world in which I make up the names, the rules, the world.
For me, it’s important to stop and get the facts straight as I write, rather than “insert correct answer here.” I can’t move on, can’t build on what’s been written already, without that. I’ve heard of people who can’t move on unless the first sentence is right.
So how do you handle your research? Do you hate it, or do you get sucked into the world? I got sucked into Isaac Newton’s biography as I wrote Love’s Alchemy, and hey, that got me an EPPIE nomination, so I guess it was worth it. Total immersion is important, I think. What do you think? As a reader, do you notice the research, or do you take it for granted if done well?