Today, I’m delighted to have an amazing new Canadian author as a guest on my blog. J.C. McKenzie writes paranormal romance and has agreed to share her writing process and research technique with us.
First I’d like to thank Marlow Kelly for hosting me today on her blog. I’m going to talk about the dirty R-word.
For my short story paranormal romance, The Shucker’s Booktique, I faced a new challenge to my writing craft. Research!
All my other books take place in a city I know and love, Vancouver. I have lived there for many years and the extent of my research prior to this new project was quick Google searches to double check my facts, like intersections and ferry times.
This was not the case with Shucker’s. The short story takes place in a fictional town near Bar Harbor, Maine, on the East Coast of the states. Yes, there’s still an ocean, but not the one I’m familiar with.
Even for a short story of 27000 words, I needed to find out a lot of stuff, and in a way that wouldn’t kill my writing mojo. I turned to Google once more for the following information:
- Flora & Fauna
- Housing styles, etc
My hero is a water sprite that can only take a human form during thunderstorms. So I had to research the weather patterns to find what was realistic for the area. I found this wonderful website that compiled historical weather data for the area I was interested in: https://weatherspark.com/averages/29745/6/Bar-Harbor-Maine-United-States
All I had to do was change the “6” to the number corresponding with the month I wanted. I patted myself on the back when I discovered thunderstorms frequent the area and usually last two days and occur about every two weeks starting in June and ending around September. Perfect!
Weather – check!
Then I had to search for flora and fauna, to enrich my scenes and flesh-out my settings. I found this one a bit trickier, so I went after specific things, like “birds in Maine.” Not one specific site helped me, but I made sure the birds and flowers I “collected” were in the area for June-August.
Flora and Fauna – check!
The culture and housing styles information came easily from the tourist website for Bar Harbor.
Culture & Housing – check, check!
After completing my research checklist and patting myself on the back (again), I drummed my fingers on my desk and stared at the blank computer screen. Research became the Dirty R-word. The story that had been hounding me for days (and nights) started to slip away, sliding right out of my grasp. The overwhelming need to use all my new found knowledge threatened my creativity.
In the end, after a few failed attempts to start writing, I ignored my little “Facts Sheet.” All that research went into a folder—out of sight and out of mind.
I wrote my story the way my subconscious wanted it told.
For example, I wrote:
Rain pounded against the bedroom window and the <xxx> trees groaned in the gale force winds outside. She closed her eyes and inhaled the lingering smells of sea breeze air with <xxx fragrant night flower 1> and <xxx fragrant night flower 2>.
After I finished the manuscript, I went back, searched for all the “xxx”s and added in the details! My example above became:
Rain pounded against the bedroom window and the birch trees groaned in the gale force winds outside. She closed her eyes and inhaled the lingering smells of sea breeze air with evening primrose and night-blooming cereus.
Some people can’t write until they’ve fully imagined the area with all the specific details. Apparently, I’m the opposite! I needed to tell the story and add the majority of the details after.
What about you?
If you’re a writer, what do you do with your research? Are you a before, during or after kind of writer?
If you’re a reader, what do you think of all the little details? Do you notice them? Do you feel they enrich the story or bog it down?
The Shucker’s Booktique by J.C. McKenzie
LON RIDES THE WAVES, LIVES BY THE TIDES, AND NOTHING CAN HOLD HIM DOWN, BUT WILLA MAY BE THE ANCHOR HE NEEDS.
The Wild Rose Press
After her fiancé dumps her and her beloved Aunt Jenny goes missing, Willa Eklund travels to Lobster Cove with a broken heart to search for Jenny while running her bookstore. When a mysterious man visits the Shucker's Booktique on a stormy night drenched in rain and covered in mud, Willa's heart melts under his stormy gaze. She wants Lon and the answers he may have, but he also has a secret. Can Willa trust him?
Lon Devlin is a Tempest, a water sprite who can only take a human form during stormy nights. He rides the waves, lives by the tides, and nothing can hold him down, not even a beautiful woman. When he visits his mortal friend, he discovers she's missing and her intriguing niece has taken her place. He wants Willa, but he also wants answers. What happened to Jenny?
Thump! Thump! Thump!
No! She gasped. It couldn’t be. The banging on the front door of the booktique had to be a figment of her imagination. She couldn’t will Lon into existence. Why would he come back? Especially if he was involved. Unless…cold ice prickled up her spine…unless he needed to eliminate her to take care of loose ends.
No. Crazy thoughts, Willa. He could’ve taken care of her the night before. No, her heart hammered against her chest for a different reason. But it didn’t matter. The knocking on the door wouldn’t, couldn’t be him.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Could it? She clutched her hot mug in both hands and turned toward the doorway leading to the bookstore. From the kitchen in the back room, she had a clear view through the store to the front door, but not who stood on the other side.
“Willa!” Lon growled. “Wake up and let me in!”
Willa gasped and almost dropped her cup. The tea sloshed around and some spilled over her hands. It burned, but she didn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. Somehow the air got trapped inside her throat. Why was he here? What did he want?
Oh God, let it be me!
About the Author:
Born and raised on the Haida Gwaii, off the West Coast of Canada, J.C. McKenzie grew up in a pristine wilderness that inspired her to dream. She writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.
J.C. McKenzie’s Website
The Wild Rose Press