The Prime Crime Panel "Research: Write What You Know or Study Up?" brought together four panelists and a moderator (me) to talk about our methods. Throughout the Indianapolis conference, other authors commented on their approaches.
Some writers cultivate experts who are willing to share expertise on their work, whether it relates to details of solving a crime (Trace Conger) or Mayan civilizations (Julia Kellman). Carol Preflatish has visited the New England area on which her fictional Mystic is based (read Salem). For her first book in the Nathan Perry series she also did a lot of research on witchcraft.
Karen Musser Nortman (who writes the Frannie Shoemaker campground series) knows a lot about camping, but has to research topics relevant to the plot of individual books. The Corpse of Discovery explored the death of Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Did he die of natural causes? Lots of historical research there.
A couple authors advocated having a clipboard with a blank page on top. Even the most reluctant source sees that page and starts talking.
Above right: Trace Conger, Carol Preflatish, Karen Musser NortmanConger believes it strengthens the relationship between author and reader. That doesn't mean a setting has to be a real place. John Gilstrap was one of many who said he doesn't want a reader to say that he put a business on the wrong corner.
I do as other some authors do and create a fictional town but place it near real towns. For example, Ocean Alley, home of the Jolie Gentil series, is near Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, New Jersey. Readers can get a better sense of place.
Above left: are Elaine L. Orr and Julia Kelman
All panelists agreed that we do more research than finds its way into a book. It doesn't represent wasted work; rather good judgment so we don't overwhelm readers.
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