“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”
Ever since starting work on my new novel, I’ve become fully and unapologetically immersed in the lives of my characters. In just over a week, their worlds have become mine. Their stories have lit a fresh spark of interest. Their journeys have reminded me of the joy, the adrenaline, and the hope of beginning a shiny new project. Something I always try to do as a writer is push myself with each book – to tackle something I never have before, to stretch the story in different ways – and I think that will be true this time around, too. There will be two main characters instead of one. Two main settings instead of one. Two main time periods instead of one. Two main perspectives instead of one. Will it be a challenge? Probably. Am I excited about that challenge? Unequivocally.
But with this uncharted territory comes the need for a lot of research. It’s the first time I’ll be writing a book that’s partially set in the past, and even though the setting is a place I’m familiar with, there have certainly been significant changes over the decades. So … Google has become my BFF as of late. It’s truly amazing how much information there is online, just waiting to be discovered with the tap of a key and the click of a mouse. I’m hoping to do some interviews, too, to get firsthand accounts, but in the meantime, I’ve been poring over website after website. The “bookmarks” tab on my laptop looks like a library. And do you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Some of the awesomely interesting topics I’ve learned about over the past week: Olympic swimming, nursing programs at the University of Pennsylvania, lifeguarding in the 1950s, graduate programs in Creative Writing, seaside towns in Virginia, the Nantucket Conservation Fund, bed & breakfast management, undergraduate programs in Architectural Design, drafting procedures during WWII, hurricanes that came ashore in Atlantic City, the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Steel Pier, the history of Lucy the Elephant, Nantucket public schools, and – my personal favorite – how to make saltwater taffy.
There’s still more research to go, but I’m honestly looking forward to it. I’m also eager to work on character sketches – four finished so far, several more to discover – and, of course, to dive into actually drafting this book. I adored writing about Sofie and Company for the past two and a half years, nothing will ever take their place in my heart, but at the same time, it’s positively invigorating to meet this new cast of people who’ll invite me along on their journeys. It’s like the air is buzzing with excitement. I can’t wait to absorb its energy.
Tell me: what’s the coolest topic you’ve ever researched for work or school? And also: doing a taste test for different flavors and brands of saltwater taffy is totally justified, right? You know, to ensure accuracy and all. Anyone want to help me out in this venture?