Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Researching Outside the Box with Elizabeth Seckman, Author of Fate Intended

Researching Outside the Box
One of my favorite things about writing is research. I'm not talking about the hours spent in the library, reading books you once had to be assigned...though that is fun!

No, I'm talking about outside the box research.

My first book, Past Due, is set in Buxton, North Carolina after the moving of the Cape Hatteras light. I read books on the move and accumulated a slew of minute facts, but one thing I couldn't find was, how long was the light extinguished and what was that like for people who were used to the predictable flash?

What's a writer to do? Pick up a Buxton phone book and cold call island residents. Seriously, you'd think I called people offering cash. Person after person was delighted to offer memories and thoughts. Not only did I learn the light was doused the entire time (which made the night skyline more than a little creepy), there was also a strong consensus of fear that the beloved icon could still crumble to the ground from the move. 

Second book, Healing Summer, my research happened by accident. I was visiting my husband's family in Montana and we went to the local grocer. I was totally stunned to find "counter checks". Blank checks left on the counter for anyone to grab and fill out. I guess they trusted you'd fill in all the correct info. Me, being me, I had to ask the cashier, "Can I use one of these?" She answered with a quick, "Sure, honey. As long as you know your bank info." And offered me a pen. I told her I was from back East and for all she knew I was going to use false information. She looked at me a second, then said without missing a beat, "Then you must really be hungry."

Yeah, that lady became Sue in Healing Summer.

For this book, Fate Intended,  I wanted to add a few Russian phrases here and there, maybe a few insults. So, I went to eLance.com and posted for a Russian translator. The lady I chose was super helpful and even gave me tips on culture. I also started stalking Russian blogs. Yeah, I picked up a few viruses and I'm still getting emails for a wife, but I also hit blog gold by stumbling on one by an American ex-pat living in Russia, On Life in St. Petersburg.

Thanks to Fate Intended's uncommon research, I now have a story where they can call each other dumb ass in Russian and explains what it means to live life "round about".

Fate Intended is the third book in the Coulter Men Series.  Trip is the last of the Coulter sons to find love. He’s a handsome man with all the skills a young spy needs to succeed. But when it comes to love, he misses the target. Jane is a sweet beauty who may or may not be wanted for murder. She’s hiding out as a cleaning lady when chance brings her and Trip together. It looks like a happily ever after is in the cross hairs until reality tries to destroy what fate has intended.

Elizabeth Seckman is a simple chick with a simple dream…to write stories people want to read.
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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Can't believe you just broke out the phone book. That's funny. Hey, whatever works!

SA Larsenッ said...

How awesome is it that people were so willing to share information from their lives with you. That gives me hope in people. :)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

@Alex- I couldn't think of another way, and so glad I did. It was fun!

@SA- It does, doesn't it? The island definitely has as mall town vibe.

Thanks Nicole for having me over! HUgs for your super awesomeness!

Angela Brown said...

You are my new hero: cold calling residents for interviews. But I see your point. You took a different route to get the information you needed and it worked, even if by accident.

Love the cover and blurb for this latest book :-)

DMS said...

It was wonderful to hear from Elizabeth. I think the type of research she described sounds fascinating. The phone interviews sound awesome! I would be nervous to make those calls- but they sound like they went well. :) Wishing her the best of luck with her book!

Thanks for the FABULOUS giveaway! Wow! :)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

@Angela, Me? A hero? I'll have to remember that. Glad you like! :)

@Jess, it's amazing what you're brave enough to do when frustrated. I googled and googled and read books. Called the National Park for the light and they couldn't really say. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Carol Riggs said...

Wow, cold calls to complete strangers. You are braver than I am, Elizabeth! Thanks for hosting, Nicole. :) I enjoyed reading about this research.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

@Carol- I don't have any problems talking to people. It's answering machines that kill me!