What Kind of Research Do You Do Before Writing?
Since, I’ve always loved research, a fact which led me to a degree in history and ultimately a career as a librarian, it was only natural that it became a big part of my writing process. Once I come up with an idea for a novel and the backbone of the story, the next thing I do is dig into the research I’ll need to bring a bit of authenticity to the book. For the Cross of Ciarán series, I’ve created an imaginary priesthood, but that didn’t mean there was no need to do any research. I read up on Celtic mythology, as well as how people in 5th century Ireland lived, etc. I tried to incorporate the appropriate worldview and research the type of housing Ciarán might have lived in, the clothing he might have worn, and the food he might have eaten. What I discover during my research has a great impact on what happens to my characters and how they react in a given situation.
Since the present-day part is set in the 1960s, I also had to research that period. Even though I lived through it, the memory is a funny thing, so I needed to make sure I got it right. Caitlin is an archaeologist, so I had to do some research into that as well, keeping in mind the decade I was dealing with. It doesn’t end there, however. Even as I’m writing, my research continues as new questions appear. At one point, I paused the story to check out what berries the characters might have been picking. A small detail, I know, but I think these little bits of information help enhance the story. I won’t say I never stretch the truth a bit. There are some things that are open for interpretation or fit the story so well that a little nudge doesn’t hurt. For example, Ciarán occasionally speaks Irish, though I chose to use modern Irish instead of the earlier dialect he would have been using It is fiction, after all, and my intent was to add a little flavor, not confuse the reader.
For the most part, however, I try to be as accurate as possible, hoping to give the reader a real sense of the period and maybe even encourage them to read a non-fiction book on the subject.
Do the Characters All Come to You at the Same Time, or Do Some of Them Come to You as You Write?
Do You Have Side Stories About the Characters?
Initially, I have a basic cast of characters around which the story revolves, but as I write, new characters appear from time to time. Generally, they are minor at first, but sometimes they grow in importance as the novel and series continues. In fact, I just might have hinted at one or two in Cross of Ciarán.
As most of my books are part of a series, it’s only natural for other characters and storylines to develop. I look at it as if I were meeting new friends — and sometimes enemies — along the way. Characters enter and exit the worlds I’ve created. Some play minor roles, never reaching more than acquaintance status, and they might keep their stories to themselves. But others will grow in importance and maybe even encounter adventures of their own as the series progresses, many times interwoven with the lives of the central characters. Even for the main characters themselves, new stories develop as their lives play out on the pages of a novel.
Hopefully, there will at least always be a happy for now ending, but new trials and tribulations are waiting only a book away. What they are and who they will involve only time can tell.
Who Designed Your Book Cover?
Jennifer Quinlan, better known as Jenny Q, designed all my book covers. She’s easy to work with, always keeping your vision in mind while designing the covers, and provides a number of mockups for you to choose from. The only problem I’ve ever encountered was trying to decide which cover to choose, but even there, she’s more than willing to provide some guidance when asked. Her work is always professional and polished, and I’ve never been disappointed in the results. I’m sure her covers have encouraged many a reader to take a look inside. If you’d like to check out samples of her work, the website is www.historicalfictionbookcovers.com