My latest novel, Poppy Fields With You, is set in Pacific Grove in the Monterrey area. Over time, I’ve learned if I want to write real I need to visit the location of my novel. While creating a fictitious location can be easier, I’ve found that fans love to read about real places. I’ve also learned real places offer bonuses as I researched.
Bonus 1 -Realistic Details
My writing is known for realistic characters and locations that bring my stories to life. I’ve been using real towns for my novels for a few years, but when I did use a fictitious street or home description, I usually pattern it after one that is real. By researching real location, authors can take photos, note impressions, involve the senses and later can recall their reaction and experience. This can add reality to their novels. When I do Internet research, the photos and information also come to life.
Bonus 2 – Simulating Plot Ideas
While researching a town, authors can learn town history, sights, events and activities that help stimulate story ideas. Recently, I spent two days in the small town of Owosso. Though a lifelong resident of Michigan, I’ve never had reason to visit this mid-state town. My publisher, Love Inspired, enjoys stories set in rural areas and small towns, making Owosso perfect. This town has its own castle, built by a 1920s novelist, James Curwood, to use as his writing sanctuary.
With children in some of my novels, learning about the town’s three Playscape venues was a find. Two of these areas provide a kid’s splash pool, slides, swings, rock wall, rope brides, a pavilion and gazebo. One Playscape at the DeVries Nature Conservatory gives children opportunities to study nature in a hands-on activities. Owosso also has a sled hill for winter fun. The town has a Steam Railroading Institute, an art gallery, a conference center, sleigh museum, community actors and theater, numerous community festivals and events, and a nearby town that has a historic village. People can roller skate, bowl and shop in a four street area, and the town is filled with restaurants and churches. All of these features triggered ideas for novels in the Lilac Circle Series.
Bonus 3 – Making Contacts
The Chamber of Commerce is where I met the woman in charge of all city events. She graciously took me on a tour of some of the cities features. We drove through residential areas where I located the street I call Lilac Circle that featured characters from my series. We went to the nearby town of Corunna to visit their Playscape, Sled Hill, the historic village and the county Courthouse which is part of the first book, Unexpected Mommy, 2015 release. Through my contact I learned about holiday events and their details, such as: Christmas, Easter egg hunt, 4th of July celebration and other unique city festivals and celebrations.
I also learned the local newspaper is privately owned and is open to carrying local articles that would interest the town’s residence. I am hopeful I can receive some press when my book series is released. Another contact was the Owosso Bookstore where they are interested in carrying my books when released. I offered to do a book signing. These personal contacts provide individuals to call for answers to question not found through research.
Bonus 4 – Tax Deductible
The cost for a research trip is a travel expenses and therefore tax deductible. The benefits are high: realism, idea stimulation, contacts and the ability to feel, taste, touch, smell, hear and see the location of your story.
Yes, you can fabricate a town, and you must if it’s speculative, but being there is a far greater investment for contemporary and historical fiction which is heightened by walking the fields of Gettysburg, exploring a real plantation, seeing migrant workers and where they live. How can a writer imagine looking at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower or riding in a gondola on the Grand Canal without experiencing it? I have, and so could you.
Best-selling and award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense with 77 published novels and over four million books sold. Her novels have won numerous national awards, including: the ACFW Carol Award, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award and Booksellers Best. CBS local news listed Gail as one of the four best writers in the Detroit area. Gail is the author of Writer Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. She is a founder of American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Advanced Speakers and Writers. Gail is a keynote speaker at churches, civic and business organizations and a workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S.