Research Before the Internet – Interviews!

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Often times I circle into a tornado of research. I love it! Hours later, I find my footing again and tackle writing armed with dizzying details to help breathe more life into my story.

I remember as a child interviewing my Grandmother for a school report. As I sat with her for hours and hours talking about her intriguing childhood, I think somewhere deep within me, a spark burst to life. I discovered that I loved stories and I loved to write them down.

For my novel Broken Smiles, I interviewed musicians, music producers, and people who have made it their life’s work to study Chinese history and culture. There is a part of my book where the characters go to Morocco. I have never been to Morocco, but I have been fascinated with that country for quite some time and someday hope to visit. I thought I had done enough research. I was happy with the scenes and details about my characters in Morocco.

That was until I actually interviewed someone who had just returned from living there for years.

As I was sitting in church one day, the speakers introduced themselves as just moving from Rabat, Morocco where they worked in the embassy. My curiosity was piqued because that was the exact city where the setting of my novel takes place. Right away I approached the couple and asked to interview them. I sent the woman my chapters of Morocco for critique and came armed with a million questions.

I absolutely loved thumbing through her photos, touching her hijabs and kaftan (clothing that they wear) and looking at her furniture and decorations. I had questions about the flora and discovered names of local plants that I had not found on google. (Because I am a horticulturist, correct vegetation in setting is a huge deal to me.) She told me about a specific tea that is served with a flourish and production. I learned what people wear at the beaches and I even had to change a few things to get it right. We talked for hours about the many details of the melting pot of cultures that are in Morocco. She was so detailed in her descriptions, that I could almost smell the exotic spices.

As I walked away with a grin on my face, I knew she loved to tell me her story — just like my Grandmother did all those years ago. You see, in the end aren’t we all just stories? Don’t we all want to share our experiences and history with others?

It is our duty as authors to get it right.

It is our responsibility to take the time to add details in our stories. That is what breathes life into them.

I suggest if you do interview someone for your novel, come prepared with specific questions, but also let them talk. Magic happens when their stories come to life — those stories you will never find online. You could never capture that kind of research by simply doing an internet search. With the world at our fingertips, I think us authors have lost a bit of  where research began and that is connecting with others and listening to their stories. I encourage you to reach out and interview people, show interest, and gain information from others experiences so that you can make your own stories stronger.

Have you ever interviewed someone for your work in progress? If so, how did it go? I’d love to hear. 🙂

Happy writing!

Tara

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