Monday 9 July 2012

Things I have become an armchair expert on for one story.

I've written before about researching for a novel, and in particular why you shouldn't consider skiving it off.

This is just a flavour, now that I've finished the initial writing (still got plenty of editing to do, which I must start getting on with properly), of how much, and how varied and unexpected the things you have to learn about might be.

The things I have become an armchair expert on, just for this one book, include, but are not limited to, in no particular order:

  • Motorbikes; in particular, different kinds of bikes and how to ride pillion without dying.
  • Hells Angels [sic].
  • American football, including fouls and corresponding penalties, and the Harvard-Yale Game (I lost the game).
  • Train routes in America - top tip: they nearly all go through Chicago. Apparently this is because of Lake Michigan - and the layout of the Texas Eagle and Sunset Something-or-other trains.
  • Domestic flights in America.
  • Fractures of the humerus, and their treatment. Did you know that you aren't allowed to lie down, even to sleep, for the first couple of weeks?
  • Axolotls, turtles, naked mole rats, vampire bats, cats, and probably some other species that I forget. And retroviruses, telomerase (it's an enzyme), and all kinds of other stuff. Do you know, when I was asking people what they thought of the premise of this book, someone actually told me that 'vampires as we fear them are not a scientific or theoretical possibility'! Can you believe that? I'll show him.
  • Ambulance and Emergency Room treatment - with many thanks to Jordyn Redwood.
  • All kinds of stuff about life in America, like apartments and motels, drinking laws and age of consent, and tons more. Some of it I found out just by chance - like the fact that electric kettles are nearly unknown over there (on that point, I could do with knowing, would a room in a very cheap motel have a coffee maker or anything you could use to get water hotter than the hot tap?). There's probably plenty more I didn't figure out.
  • The general layout of quite a few cities in America, from Milwaukee to Los Angeles. Google Maps is very useful for location scouting when you can't run to actually going there. And sometimes amusing.
  • The history of Los Angeles.
  • Names. Ancient Greek names, Viking names, Persian names, Maasai names, and all kinds of other names.
  • Maasai culture.
  • Ancient Greek houses.
  • Ancient Greek funerals.
  • Ancient Greek ports.
  • Ancient Greek wildlife.
  • Ancient Greece in general.
  • Ancient Rome.
  • Barbary corsairs.
  • 'Vampires' - which is to say, people who participate in the vampire lifestyleThis was very helpful and interesting. Also clinical vampirism, but I didn't really need that, I just got wiki-sidetracked.
  • Travelling as a passenger on a container ship.
  • Fake passports.
  • The south-west coast of Spain.
That's not including anything I would have needed to research if I hadn't already known about it or anything I can't remember off the top of my head, and it's only things I needed to find out about for the book I'm currently writing, which is only the first instalment of the story.

So you have been warned. Don't be disheartened though: if you end up with more to research than me I'll be impressed. Any book which is set in several time periods or places (for instance, anything with characters whose lifetime spans centuries) will generate correspondingly more research, and if you're sensible, you won't set the majority of the present-day part in a country you've never been to.