Please welcome guest blogger and dear friend, mystery author Camille Minichino. Camille has published seventeen novels, short stories, and articles. Her three series are: The Periodic Table Mysteries; the Miniature Mysteries (as Margaret Grace); and the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries (as Ada Madison). Visit http://www.minichino.com.
Thanks to one of my favorite authors for welcoming me to the Silver Rush Mysteries blog!
If you've ever read a Silver Rush mystery, you know how much research blog hostess Ann Parker does! She makes me so happy that I don't have to worry about when zippers were invented. As a test, I looked it up and found out that a patent for the zipper was issued in 1893, and called a "clasp locker." But that's just one piece of information from one site. Ann and her ilk would collect at least 6 more references, compare and contrast, combine all the data, and then spend another month researching whether everyone used zippers or only the 1%. See what I mean? Not for me, but I'm glad someone does it.
But contemporary settings have their own problems with research. All of the books in my three series are set in modern times, the earliest only 16 years ago. You can carry your smartphone, with its Notes app and camera up and down the streets of a town, recording the names of streets and the foliage, but there's no guarantee that it will be the same tomorrow, and it's even less likely that it will be the same when the book is released.
Even the directions to my house have changed in the last 10 years. We used an enormous eucalyptus as the landmark to indicate which driveway to turn into. But—who would have thought?—the sick tree was put out of its misery last summer and all that's left is a large-diameter stump, apparently a big attraction as a picnic table for the nearby high schoolers. In this sense, writers of historical fiction don't know how easy they have it. If they have a photo of a eucalyptus at the head of the street in 1880, they can count on it as they write it into their story, even use it as a plot element (who killed the eucalyptus?); no one can go back in time and remove it from 1880. Wait—did eucalyptuses even exist in 1880? (Here we go again. Where does it end?)
The dangers of "too much research" are present in both historical and contemporary novels. "Write what you know" takes us only so far.
If we write to explain our research, the story will die like that high school history class taught by the football coach (oops, that was my high school). If we write to discover, learning on the way ourselves, the story will live.
Instead of a story about zippers, we'll have a story about people whose lives are different from the lives of those who don't have zippers.
NOTE: Camille/Ada is giving away copies of her latest Sophie Knowles mystery: A FUNCTION OF MURDER. Leave a comment below to qualify for the drawing, then check back end of the week to find out if you are the lucky winner...