Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Researcher’s Creed by Lisa Carter

Are you following the creed? Romantic suspense author Lisa Carter provides tips for writing research that won't kill you professionally. -- Sandy

Lisa: Readers often ask what kind of research I do for my novels. First, I read everything I can regarding factual topics and law enforcement issues before I ever speak with LE officials. Once I’ve done this and feel I'm ready to ask semi-intelligent questions, I turn to various experts in their field. For example—

Beyond the Cherokee Trail required a research trip retracing the Trail of Tears in addition to correspondence with a noted Cherokee scholar.

Under a Turquoise Sky was an interesting research situation as it involves WITSEC. And that’s all I’ll say on that—loose lips sink ships.

The research for my Coast Guard series—Coast Guard Courtship & Coast Guard Sweetheart—led to a delightful long-distance relationship with Captain Jim, a retired Coast Guard officer.

But here’s the creed researchers, journalists, historians and writers live by or—if not heeded—by which they professionally die:

1.      Don’t wing it or guess. Check out as many sources on the topic as possible. Determine if the writer had an agenda and filter truth from opinion. Visit multiple sources. Vary research venues. Most important—There’s a Rule of 3 that must agree. Make this your personal and professional mantra in research.

2. Take legible, precise notes—copious notes. But steer clear of plagiarism. Err on the side of caution.

3. Fact check details in the writing and re-writing stages. Readers will spot errors and this damages their trust in you as an author.

4. Don’t fudge historical/contemporary events to bolster your storyline. Understand the difference between “anecdotal” and what really happened. Grandpa’s version of the Battle of Iwo Jima is just one slice of the whole pie—his perspective, not the whole enchilada. Kind of like what cops encounter in trying to interview eyewitnesses to a car crash. Treat anecdotal accounts with caution. The truth may lie in the middle.

5. Keep your source material organized—books, articles, links, interviews. Writers are often contractually required to keep these for a certain length of time. Develop reliable sources. Your reputation—and your publishers’—is on the line.

6. Research allows authors to construct the most realistic story possible on the subject matter. It grounds the author in truth and frees their imagination to take it from there. Research should pepper your novel, not overwhelm. A little goes a long way.

7. Hone your writer instincts. Like the nose of a finely trained K9, learn to sniff out nuggets of research gold.

8. Finally, pray a lot during the entire process. While writing Under a Turquoise Sky, I discovered a Navajo legend, which when seen through the eyes of faith provided the missing element to the hero’s emotional and spiritual character arc. Coincidence or inspiration? What do you think? Trust God for those serendipitous encounters that can only be explained by Him.

What is your system for keeping your research organized? Do you have another tip to add?


Lisa Carter's novel, Under a Turquoise Sky, won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Her latest, The Stronghold, releases in March. Beyond the Cherokee Trail is a 4 1/2 star Romantic Times September Top Pick. The author of seven romantic suspense novels and a Coast Guard series, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. She loves to hear from readers.

About The Stronghold:
Drug violence, revenge killings, and kidnapping are nothing new along the U.S.-Mexican border. But now teenage girls are disappearing from the Apache reservations of Arizona and New Mexico.

Apache tribal cop Pilar To-Clanny and FBI Special Agent Alex Torres have a long and tumultuous history. When someone close to them disappears, Pilar and Alex must risk everything to rescue the child, including facing the unresolved issues of the past, and venture into the no-man’s land of the drug cartels.

Can Pilar and Alex work together to stop a sadistic killer before he strikes again? On a quest to rescue those they love, who will rescue them?

Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author—“I’ve added this book to my keeper shelf and you should too!”