Bride of the Living Dead Author Talks about Research

My guest today is author Lynne Murray, who is blog-jogging through a virtual book tour for her romantic comedy, Bride of the Living Dead. Lynne has had six mysteries published. Larger Than Death, the first book featuring Josephine Fuller (sleuth of size who doesn’t apologize), won the Distinguished Achievement Award from NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance).  She has written three e-books of encouragement for writers as well as essays, interviews and reviews on subjects that rouse her passions, many of those can be found under “Rants and Raves” on her web site. Lynne lives in San Francisco and when not writing she enjoys reading, watching DVD film directors’ commentaries and spoiling her cats, all of whom are rescued or formerly feral felines.

In Bride of the Living Dead, Indie film critic, Daria MacClellan, wants to marry the man she loves, but she’s slipping on rose petals as if they were banana peels on her way to the altar. Big, beautiful and rebellious, Daria, who is most comfortable in a monster movie poster T-shirt and blue jeans, finds that her wedding is hijacked by family drama. How did she sign on for a formal wedding planned by Sky, her perfectionist, anorexic, older sister? Daria adores her fiancé and she loves horror films, but her wedding seems to be spiraling downward in that direction. Will a picture perfect pink wedding turn her into the Bride of the Living Dead?

In her post today, Lynne talks about research.

I admire novelists who do intensive research so that a reader can travel (or time travel!) to different times and places, but for my own writing I’ve got mixed feelings about research.

Back in college a fellow student journalist who was already a published poet confessed to me that she was shifting her focus to the history of Japanese religion, a field that required massive amounts of research and mastery of a couple of classical languages. She said she felt a tremendous burden lifted when she realized she wouldn’t have to spin fiction out of thin air, with all the self-revelation that that entails. We’re still friends and I know she made the right choice for herself. She’s now a distinguished scholar at an Ivy League university.

My own experience was the exact opposite. I love reading nonfiction and also fiction set in historical times and exotic places, but I felt tremendous relief when I left the fact-based realm of journalism and entered the make-it-up-as-you-go-along world of storytelling.

Maybe that’s why no one has ever been tempted to use the word “distinguished” in the same sentence with my name—but I’m okay with that, I’m too irreverent to wear that kind of a adjective for long anyway.

A certain amount of research is necessary to lure the reader in and anchor a story in a plausible version of the world. Sometimes I’ll research a bit to see if I want to spend a year or so in that setting. It helps to pick a topic that catches my attention enough to explore, but not too deeply!

Often I’ll have my viewpoint character approach something as an outsider. This was a very natural approach for Bride of the Living Dead because I’ve not had anything to do with the world of formal weddings. I’ve only attended a few of them and never served as a bridesmaid in my youth.

Daria, the heroine of the book, shares my blissful ignorance. But Daria’s sister, Sky, who is planning her wedding, is obsessed with every detail. Fortunately I only needed to know as much as Daria did, so we could both watch Sky from the outside without really knowing the details of what she did.

I did do a little research and discovered that I Daria and I both rather like the color periwinkle, who knew?

An earlier example and a much rougher subject, was mountain climbing in my Josephine Fuller mystery, At Large. My protagonist’s photographer ex-husband did a bit of mountain climbing in Nepal, but my heroine stayed back at the hotel when he headed for the mountain. She did help sort out her husband’s climbing gear (which yielded a murder weapon that cast suspicion on her).

A witty mystery writer friend, Lora Roberts has a great motto taken from the old Orson Welles wine commercial:  “We do no research before its time.”

It helps a lot to narrow the field of inquiry and to look for details that help the reader’s imagination without drilling down to irrelevant details, which I would probably screw up anyway.

I once corresponded online with a man who was a serious train buff and he said he could not go to a movie featuring trains because, “They always get it wrong.” Those kinds of readers are impossible to please, so I give myself permission from the beginning to lose them. I confess that after living in San Francisco for decades, I get impatient when an author throws the Golden Gate Bridge into every scene, but if the story is good enough, I’ll give them a pass and keep reading.

Lynne will continue her blog tour with a call-in program Friday, June 4. To receive the teleconference call details (phone number and access code), send an email to pearlsongconversations@pearlsong.com. The call details will be automatically emailed to you. There is no cost for participating in the teleconference call, other than any long distance toll charges that might apply.

Bride of the Living Dead is available through the publisher Pearlsong Press . Also visit Lynne’s blog and her Real Time Writing Diary, and “friend” her on Twitter. For her other tour stops, visit booktour and enjoy.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I enjoyed this interesting view of research–one of my favorite topics.

    • I can see why it’s a favorite topic, Mary, and it can provide the little details that transport us into another world when we read!

  2. What a wonderful insight into the way your ‘world’ works. I love when writers share what makes their writing life worthwhile. Thank You.

  3. My pleasure, Doris! One thing that writing has in common with living in general is that there is often no one way to do something. The trick is to find the way that works best for ourselves!


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