People say write what you know about. I’m not a total believer in that, but I have to admit it does make things easier. I’m English from Kendal, a small town in the north of England (though I now live on a mountain in Spain) and most of my books are set in England, mainly in London, where I lived and worked for a number of years.
However, I love to try different things, and so the book I’m writing now is set in a small town in America. I could have set my small town anywhere, but I settled on Virginia’s eastern shore, close to the island of Chincoteague, because when I was a child, I read a book called Misty of Chincoteague and fell in love with the area and the ponies.
Four wild ponies of Assateague Island, Maryland, USA crossing the water of the bay. These animals are also known as Assateague Horse or Chincoteague Ponies. They are a breed of feral ponies that live in the wild on an island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. It is unknown how the animals originally populated the island, although there are a few legends.
So now I need to get a feel for my small town, what’s it like, who lives there, what do people do in the evenings, at the weekends, does everyone go to church, do they welcome newcomers with open arms or does it depend on who you are…?
Maybe I need to visit. I would in fact love to visit, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. So I’m attempting, from the comfort of my own home, to steep myself in all things small town and east Virginia in particular. Here’s my list of things to do in the name of research:
- Read books set in small towns
- Watch movies set in small towns
- Google my chosen area (http://www.chincoteague.com/)
- Google small town America – some fascinating articles come up.
- Ask questions
What do you think is the best way (short of getting on an airplane) to get a real feel for a place you are writing about?
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.
Being a writer makes a person curious, about a lot of things. You start off doing research on one thing, like…say…fairies. Suddenly, you’re immersed in all kinds of lore, and not so lore. You’re on the yellow brick road, kids. A path to knowledge, a Quest to Learn.
Your whole life is a journey into research of all sorts. It makes you excellent at Trivial Pursuit (if people still play that) or at Trivia Crack. You know stuff that no one knows. (Except other writers.) It makes people think you’re smart. (In my neck of the states, that’s pronounced smaht. But I digress.)
Sometimes your research becomes detrimental; it consumes you and you want to delve deeper and deeper into a subject–but you know you’re only delaying the inevitable: having to work on your current manuscript. (Eww. Work!) Life is full of wonderful distractions that make it hard for you to get to work–the internet is an especially wonderful distraction.
So many memes! Oh the memes I have seen…
And GIFS. Good Lordy! (I’d insert some, but then I’d have to look for them and I’d get distracted. Which–really–is the point. It’s easy to get lost in the research. And the finding. Especially when there’s Sam and Dean. But once again, I digress.)
Back to the fairies….
So I looked up fairies. I found out where the lore on fairies originated:
While most of Northern Europe lay under a thick canopy of forest, bogs did not. Half earth, half water and open to the heavens, they were borderlands to the beyond. To these people, will-o’-the-wisps—flickering ghostly lights that recede when approached—weren’t the effects of swamp gas caused by rotting vegetation. They were fairies.
There’s enough in that article for a whole slew of stories…if I do the research.
Cyn D. Blackburn is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs and one terribly outnumbered cat. She knows that nothing eases the difficulties of life--and falling into love--more than a little humor.
Hi, all! Jennifer here.
As a romance reader as well as a writer I have noticed certain trends in popular romance books recently.
Not saying these trends are necessarily bad. Just… interesting. Like people are interesting. You just never really know how the human brain ticks and what readers will suddenly be clamoring for. If I did know, I’d sell the secret and probably retire to the Amalfi coast somewhere.
But I digress…
However, I do have to say that some of these trends–not all–do have me scratching my head. But that’s just me. I might be old-fashioned. Curious to know what I’ve seen? Let me put you out of your misery.
Romance Novel Trends Jennifer’s Seen Within the Last Few Months:
- Lots of “Daddy” titles. Really? Yup. Not sure I want to touch this subject but I’m pretty sure these romances are NOT incestuous just dealing with um, “daddies” of some nature. 🙂
I’m sure they are great books–and obviously popular. It just makes this little romance reader go:
2. Lots of Billionaire romances. Well, gee, this trend isn’t so hard to understand. I mean, who doesn’t fantasize about a handsome, rich (crazy rich) guy after you. It’s a dream. However… who knew there were so many in the world?
3. More Women’s Fiction than Straight Up Romance books. This one I find most interesting. A lot more of your best selling romance authors seem to be making this move to women’s fiction with romance, instead of pure romance. Are readers looking for more than romance? I don’t know. But it’s an interesting one to watch for sure.
4. Lots of Virgins. Wow. It’s nice so many characters seem to be saving themselves for that special someone. (Usually the Billionaire in #2) I haven’t seen this trend since…the 80’s? I guess if bell-bottom jeans can make a comeback so can virgin 30 year-olds. 🙂
That’s my observations anyway.
What about you? Any trends you’ve seen in romance novels? What do you think of the trends I mentioned?
Until next time, HAPPY READING!
Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN