Friday, October 1, 2010

Kate Hardy's Guide to the Joy of Research

First of all, thank you very much to the Minxes for inviting me back to talk about a subject dear to my heart – my favourite bit of writing a book.

Which is… (cue drum roll) research.

Why do I love research so much? I guess it’s because I’m a nerd who just loves learning new things. Better still is when I get to do location research and actually see the place I’m talking about - and it can be really important, because if I hadn't visited Venice earlier this year then I wouldn't have known that their stained glass is very different from English stained glass, and my book would have been completely wrong. (The eating of lots of ice cream in Venice was also research, albeit for a different book that I haven’t started yet and needs, um, another research trip.)

Actually doing the research is one thing; putting it into your book so it doesn’t show is quite another. It's quite tricky to walk the line between putting enough research into the book so that my readers get a flavour of the background (whether it's a place or a profession – or, in the case of my Medical romances, the patients’ illnesses and how to treat it), but not putting in so much that it's an infodump or drowns the romance. Although I’ve had plenty of readers tell me that one of the things they love about my books is that they learn something new, at the end of the day, I know that their main concern is the journey between the hero and heroine (and all the stuff I find absolutely fascinating gets in the way of said journey. I still need to know it before I write, though, because it does affect how my hero and heroine think).

My current release, Champagne with a Celebrity, has a parfumier as a hero. And you can't write a book about someone who develops new perfumes unless you know how it's done, can you? And when I discovered that there was a one-to-one course on designing your own perfume, literally 20 minutes down the road from me... Well, I just had to do it, didn’t I? I learned some really interesting things about perfume – and I did manage to work some of them into the book, when the hero guides the heroine through making her own perfume blend. (I would tell you more here, but then you wouldn’t learn something new when you read the book – and I couldn’t possibly disappoint you like that!) I also made my own bottle of fragrance; though I will admit that, despite my best intentions, it turned out to be a clone of my favourite perfume.

So my question to you is: research. Love it or hate it?

Kate Hardy’s latest book, Champagne with a Celebrity, is the second in a duo about the Lefèvre brothers. It’s available now at bookshops, Amazon or at the M&B website. Click here for the Amazon link

And in other news, we have an exciting Minx announcement here on the blog on Monday - Don't forget to pop in and read it!

12 comments:

Sally Clements said...

I absolutely LOVE research, Kate, and the detail that you bring to your books through your research is one of the things that I love most about your writing! I loved Champagne with a Celebrity and all the perfume info, and also the way you painted the 'french wedding' differences in so masterfully, I felt I'd learned something as well as had a great read!
I'm a sucker for research, in my first book, catch me a catch, the heroine is an artisan chocolatier, so I had great fun researching making chocolate and layering that info in, and in my second, bound to love, the heroine replicates ancient gold jewellery. I was lucky enough to find a master goldsmith who specialises in this in New York to advise me on the techniques she uses - which are the same as the ancient egyptian and etruscan jewellers - I think good research can add a real extra layer of interest!
Great post, and thank you so much for being here with the minxes today!

Kate Hardy said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Sally - my ed has to remind me to focus on the romance because I can get a bit carried away :o)

The chocolate making sounds wonderful research, as does the goldsmithing - they're both definitely books I'd like to read! Hmm. Off to your website to find a link, methinks...

Caroline said...

I'm in the "research is king" camp. As a would-be historical author - research if a must. No point writing a Roman and the hero and heroine stopping for lunch and having a sandwich - which we all know weren't "invented" back then. Get your facts wrong and the reader is *instantly* pulled out of the story - historical or modern. Great stuff Kate - as usual. Caroline x

Maya said...

Most of my research tends to be web-based, but I remember the whole day I spent in a library last year researching the Opium Wars in Ancient China. I had to be thrown out! Heaven, pure heaven. Thanks for the wonderful insight into your writing, Kate. Can I come with you on the ice-cream research trip to Venice?

Kate Hardy said...

Caroline - absolutely, research is a must. I notice when things are wrong, so I'm pretty sure my readers would, too.

Am smiling to think of Roman sandwiches. (Having done some Roman cookery last year, when my littlest was studying the Romans - do you have any idea how long it takes to beat 1/2 lb honey into 6 eggs? - I think they would've been really grateful for sandwiches...)

Kate Hardy said...

Maya - wow, that's an unusual topic. And a whole day in the library - utter bliss. (I love it when I get to handle 17th-century books and pamphlets. Obviously with gloves on. And unfolding papers that haven't been touched for maybe 200 years... That's why, if the family goes shopping and I promise to meet them in an hour after a quick bit of research in the archives, they come and fish me out two hours later!)

Sadly, the ice-cream research is going to be local (some of it will be in my kitchen). But I think I can insist that Paris has a bit of ice cream research, later this month...

Lorraine said...

An ice cream research trip? Sorry, got a bit distracted there, was imagining walking around sunny Venice with an ice cream instead of hiding from the horrid weather today.
I love research, maybe a bit too much, it's one of those things I need to set a time limit on as per your time management advice!
Thanks for being on the blog today :-)

Kate Hardy said...

Yes, indeedy :o) The book was meant to be written at least a year ago, but other ideas pushed it out of the way.

Venice, sunshine, ice cream and gondolas. Can't imagine anything better!

And thank you for having me today :o)

Lacey Devlin said...

It's hard not to love research when it includes eating ice cream and making perfume ;) The chocolate making Sally mentioned doesn't sound too bad either!

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - it's a tough job, but someone has to do it... ;o)

Suzanne Jones said...

Terrific post, Kate. The perfume research sounds fascinating.

I still haven't found a happy balance with research - I either do too much and get no writing done, or not enough so I end up with too little narrative drive.

XX

Kate Hardy said...

Thanks, Suzanne - it was :o)

And with you on, cough, maybe doing too much...