Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Researching a Book in a Far-Flung Setting by Amy M. Reade - Guest Post

Today, I'm featuring cozy mystery author Amy M. Reade in a guest post on how to research for a book in a "far-flung setting" with bits and pieces from her new mystery novel Highland Peril.

Who is Amy M. Reade?
Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, and recovering attorney. But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross) and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

Researching a Book in a Far-Flung Setting
by Amy M. Reade

          My newest release, Highland Peril, is a mystery set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, though there are parts of the story that take place in London. I was lucky enough to visit Scotland and England while I was researching the book, but that doesn’t mean that an author has to visit a setting in order to write about that place evocatively—it just requires the author’s willingness to immerse himself or herself in research to learn more about the far-flung setting than just its topography and its major cities. And though I’ve geared this post toward authors of mysteries, the same advice holds true for authors of all stripes.

          There are some tried-and-true things an author can do to research a setting without visiting. The first place most people look is Google.

But not me—I go to the library. And specifically, the travel guide section. Whether a novel is set in Alaska or Timbuktu or Portugal, you’ll almost always be able to find a travel guide geared toward the place you want to write about. Borrow the books, take them home with you, and really pore over what they have to say.

Are there out-of-the-way places that might be perfect to stage a murder?

Would it be easy for a criminal to escape from, say, a crime scene somewhere along the Amalfi Coast in Italy? In other words, is there a lot of traffic congestion? Are there easy ways out of town? Would the bad guy need a boat to get away?

What is the nightlife like? Is it sleepy, so witnesses to a crime are limited in number, or are there people all over the place at all hours of the day or night?

Does the place you’re researching have a ghost tour business? Even if you’re not writing paranormal, it can be good to know if there are a lot of people around who believe in ghosts. A savvy criminal could really use that to his or her advantage.

Once I’ve gleaned all the information I can from the travel guide(s) I’ve chosen, it’s time to look for other books on the subject of traveling through a particular country or region. For example, I’m working on a book right now set in London. Not only did I use a London travel guide, but I also found books such as Weird England (by Matt Lake) and London Under (by Peter Ackroyd) that were both interesting and useful.

I’ve also found it very helpful to listen to news podcasts from a particular area I’m writing about (so far, I’ve set all my books in places where English is the primary language). It helps me get a good idea not only of the accents that are common in the region, but also the idiosyncrasies of the dialect. But the podcasts are useful for more than just language—they’re also good for learning what’s important to the people who live in the place I’m writing about. Here’s a good example of that: as I write this, there are cities all over Europe that are experiencing danger and damage to their infrastructure because of the stress put on them by tourists. A good motive for a concerned citizen to kill a particularly obnoxious tourist? Maybe so.

So, to summarize thus far, travel guides, then books written about your setting, then podcasts. After I’ve exhausted these, then I turn to Google. I like to use Google to search for information about a place’s history, its food, its music, and its vital statistics, such as population and racial diversity. If you’re writing an historical novel, you might not want to leave the history to Google—you might want to read a book or two about it. But for my general purposes, a history search on Google will suffice.

After you’ve synthesized everything you’ve learned about a certain setting, it’s up to you to decide how much of that learning you want to be evident in the book. Without succumbing to the dreaded information dump, you can infuse your novel with your knowledge in subtle ways, making it obvious to the reader that you’ve done your research.

          I urge you to try these approaches to research. Using the method I describe takes time, yes, but it also helps you to put a certain indefinable authority behind your words. And don’t be surprised when readers think you’ve visited the setting of your book.

Highland Peril Synopsis:
Trading the urban pace of Edinburgh for a tiny village overlooking a breathtaking blue loch was a great move for budding photographer Sylvie Carmichael and her artist husband, Seamus—until a dangerous crime obscures the view…
Sylvie’s bucolic life along the heather-covered moors of the Highlands is a world away from the hectic energy of the city. But then a London buyer is killed after purchasing a long-lost Scottish masterpiece from Seamus’s gallery—and the painting vanishes. As suspicion clouds their new life, and their relationship, Sylvie’s search for answers plunges her into an unsolved mystery dating back to Cromwellian Scotland through World War I and beyond. And as she moves closer to the truth, Sylvie is targeted by a murderer who’s after a treasure within a treasure that could rewrite history . . . and her own future.

Genre: Mystery
(2nd in Series)
Publisher: Lyrical Underground (5 September 2017)
Paperback: 218 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1516100187

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Connect with author Amy M. Reade via her WebsiteBlogGoodreadsAmazonFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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