Thursday, June 29, 2017

Research by Sandra Orchard

Research is fun! You get to learn new things, see new places, meet interesting people. What’s not to like? 

Unless… you’re writing about snakes, and feel compelled to step into a pit of them to experience the emotions your heroine would feel. In that case, might I suggest having your head examined first? A visit to a psychiatrist would be interesting research, don’t you think?

When conducting your research, don’t just settle for what you can pick up from an internet search or a book from the library. Talk to people in the various fields depicted in your novel. Visit the environments and/or locations depicted—whether a hospital or a factory or a farm or a circus—and get a sense of the atmosphere and rhythm of the place. Ask lots of questions. Jot down lots of details—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. 

Choosing which details to use and how is a an art in itself, but if you don’t know the details, you’ll inevitably fall back on stereotypical descriptions and they won’t be nearly as interesting. 

My Serena Jones Mysteries are fun romps, so it was only fitting that the research for them should be an adventure. It started with reading online articles about art crime, including blogs by purportedly retired art thieves—I’m not kidding! 

From there, I devoured biographies of the best known art detectives and books on art and forgery. I even took an online course with the University of Glasgow on Art & Antiquities Crime, which proved to be a fabulous way to “meet” several experts in the field. 

But the real adventure started after I settled on a location for the series. I wanted to attend a conference in St. Louis, so I contacted the FBI headquarters there to see if I might visit. After I filled out all the appropriate online forms, and promised them my firstborn child, I was approved! And bonus—of the mere 13 members of the FBI Art Crime Team, one of them happened to be located in St. Louis. He even called me at my home to get started on answering my questions before I visited. They also assigned me a media relations person out of DC who continued to answer new general questions that cropped up while writing the novels. 

The lesson to be learned here is that many organizations are just as eager as you are to have the facts about them depicted correctly in novels and scripts. And many professionals are more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise with a conscientious writer. But you’ll never know unless you ask! 

Over Maya Dead Body, the final instalment in Sandra Orchard’s art crime mystery series releases July 4th. In the meantime…

Goodreads Members can enter this 5-book Giveaway:

Back Cover Blurb: Crime doesn’t take a vacation

FBI Special Agent Serena Jones arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with her family, ready for a bit of R&R and a lot of reminiscing as they celebrate the engagement of an old family friend. But when a suspicious death tied to an antiquities smuggling ring interrupts her picture-perfect trip, she’s soon entangled in the investigation.
Propelled into danger, Serena must stay the course and solve this case before anyone else dies. But just how is she supposed to do that when the two men in her life arrive on the scene, bringing with them boatload of romantic complications—and even a secret or two?

Sandra Orchard is the award-winning author of several books, including A Fool and His Monet; Another Day, Another Dali; and the Port Aster Secrets series. The winner of six Canadian writing Awards and a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Sandra has also received a HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, a National Readers’ Choice Award, and a Daphne du Maurier Award. She lives in Ontario, Canada. Learn more at