Monday, November 7, 2011

Research: How I Cheat by Susan Kaye Quinn

I am so psyched to welcome Susan Kaye Quinn for my first-ever guest post!

Susan runs her eponymous blog (link), and she's just released her brand new book Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy). Right now the Kindle version is only $2.99 on Amazon (link). Run get it!

You might remember Dr. Q from when I reviewed her young-adult romance Life, Liberty and Pursuit last year (link). It was so great, I could not wait to get Open Minds the minute it came out last week. I'll post my new review ASAP.

But now for the guest post. Take it away, Susan!

* * *
I’ve written stories about wormhole-traveling clones a thousand years in the future, dimension-traveling fairies, and sailors going through boot camp (if you can find the common thread there, please let me know).

For every story I write, I do a lot of research, and my new paranormal/SF novel Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) is no exception.

Bob Mayer says the special forces unit he was a part of lived by the saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.” That saying really speaks to my creative urge to break the rules and do things differently.

(Note: I’m not in favor of cheating on tests, etc. You’re only cheating yourself when you do that.)

When I research, I cheat. I don’t have time to roam the earth and experience first hand the many settings, buildings, deserts, and national monuments where I place my stories.

That’s why God invented Google Earth.

(Did you know that if you type “Earth” into Google Maps, it gives you Earth, TX, population 1,109. Who knew the world was so small?)

I’ve walked around the small town of Rock Point, Ariz. (in Open Minds), strolled the streets of Amesbury, England (in The Faery Swap), and figured out the best route to break into the Great Lakes Naval Air Station (in Open Minds).

I actually drove up to the guard shack at Great Lakes one time, but only because we happened to be driving by and I couldn’t resist. Turns out the guard was working on a mystery novel. He still wouldn’t let me in.

I troll for images on the Internet to find people who have visited places that I want to set my story. I should no longer be amazed at what can be found online, but people post pictures of vacations, business trips, and their hometowns, conveniently labeled with titles and descriptions.

I’ve even used blogs written by other people (a naval cadet in boot camp, a fashionista attenting a fashion show) to get the voice and slang-usage right for a particular character.

If that’s cheating, I think there should be a class to teach kids how to do it. And I seriously wonder how writers did their thing before the advent of the Internet.

Then again, the flip side of the access to all this information is that everyone else has access to it to. And in a global world, you’re guaranteed to have someone read your story who actually HAS been there and done that. I had several (not one but SEVERAL) people who had actually gone through boot camp read my teen love story Life, Liberty, and Pursuit.

I sighed with relief when they were amazed at how realistic the gas mask training scene was. #thankyouSailorBloggerBoy

Sometimes you have to straight make stuff up. Even then, I find inspiration in Science magazine or Through the Wormhole, just a tidbit or two to get my creative engine humming.

And you’d be amazed what “Lightbulbs of the Future” will bring up on Google.

* * *

Awesome. Thanks again, Susan! Those are great links and information to make our research easier. I'll post the book information below again, and in the meantime, have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! Til Thursday~ <3

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves.

When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).


Laura Pauling said...

Ha ha! Sounds a lot like my research. I love Google Earth and blogs are a great source! Great job!

Vicki Rocho said...

My son used to play with Google Earth obsessively awhile back.

This bookis on my list!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

This is a perfect example of one method looking so clear and obvious to one writer, while another one never even thought of it. I haven't used Google Earth for research. Instead, I directly google the source I'm seeking. I think you're method is better. *off to google what God created...*

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips. I'll have to check out Google Earth the next time I want to create a seting.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@Laura We think alike on so many things! :)

@Vicki My kids are even better at it than I am; they figured out how to travel in time with Google Earth! #totallynotkidding

@Sheri I've learned so much from other writers, which is why I love these guest posts! They give me an excuse to share what I've learned. #hopeithelps!

@Natalie It really does help - sometimes there will even be people caught in the images and you can see what they're dressed like/what they're doing. #alsocreepy

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@LT Thanks, sweetie, for hosting me on your blog!! :)

Stina said...

I love doing research, and I've used Google maps to figure out my setting locations. That probably means I've used Google Earth too. :D

Great post, Susan.

Old Kitty said...

Good luck Susan Kaye Quinn and all the very best for your Open Minds!!

Earth, TX sounds like my kinda place! Off I go to google it now! LOL!

Take care

DEZMOND said...

dimension-traveling fairies? How is it possible that me and my Elven people haven't heard of this one before? :)

JE said...

I totally cheat, too! I've decided I don't even need a vacation with Google Earth at my fingertips. Ah, well ... maybe I do. ;-)


DL Hammons said...

I heard David Morrell speak once and he told us he learned how to fly a plane as part of research for one of his books.

Meanwhile us normal writers cheat! :)

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! Susan, I have your book sitting on my Kindle because I couldn't resist... just have a couple books in front of it in line. As for research, just this weekend I emailed a friend of mine with some questions about her home town, as my characters are on a road trip and had some things to get done, so why not choose a location I can ask a couple questions about. I've been google mapping and satelliting a lot, too.

Tracy Jo said...

LTM - Congrats on your first-ever guest post!

Susan - I love your honesty and such great information. I don't know what we did without the internet either. Congrats on Open Minds and thank you!

Anonymous said...

Susan--I love your take on research!!! Congrats to you success. ;)

Deborah Jackson said...

That's not cheating. It's called research. But nothing takes the place of a detailed book for true depth.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@Deborah This is so true! There are some things the internet is just no good at. When I was researching my Celtic-flavored MG fantasy, I had a stack of books from the library on Irish mythology and literature. I think I cleaned them out!

Thanks for stopping by! :)

LTM said...

@Laura--I'm with Tracy (and SKQ). I don't know how we ever got along before the Internet. And that's from someone who lived 25 years without it! :D

@LBD--Me, too. Yay for Susan!

@Deborah--It's great to have all the resources we have now at our fingertips. Thanks for visiting! :o)

Unknown said...

What a great article, Susan! The buzz surrounding Open Minds is fantastic and I'm excited to pick up my copy. Leigh, thanks for this awesome post! Hope all's well with you, sweetie!!!

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm so glad I live in an era with the Internet! Makes research SO much easier :)

Jessica Bell said...

The guard was working on a mystery novel??? LOLOL That's flippin' fab! :o) Great post, Susan!

J.C. Martin said...

Google Earth is awesome! But sometimes nothing beats a bit of personal experience. You can describe London's ChinaTown using Google Earth to your heart's content, but the essence of the place is the sounds, the smells, the waves of hustle and bustle that sweeps you along. These things cannot be experienced with pictures alone. But if you can't get there, the next best thing is to interview someone who has been there.

Great post, Susan!

Donna Shields said...

I'm glad I came across your blog through Pay It Forward. This sounds like an absolute awesome read.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@JC That's a really good point! Sometimes I forget to ask people, that I know have personal experience! When I do, they're almost always really eager to share. *jots down note*

Susan Kaye Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@Donna Thanks! I hope you enjoy it. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Susan, I love your method of "cheating!" I think YOU should teach a class to all us kids. ;) No, seriously.

Unknown said...

How DID people write before the internet? And before Cut and Paste? *shudders

Thanks Susan and LTM, that was great!

Jennie Bailey said...

Open Minds sounds amazing! I'm going to have to get it in print (still hanging on to those print books). It's always great to read that I'm not the only one who "cheats" and that we all sometimes just have to make stuff up. Part of the fun of being a writer, I guess!

Shannon said...

Great post! Susan, your method of "cheating" is great; love it! And the premise of your book? Awesome! I'm adding it to my list of must reads. :)

Talli Roland said...

I loved 'Open Minds' and I can't wait for the next in the trilogy! And I'm a big fan of Google Earth, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I am just popping by to say "hello" from alex's PIF Bloghop. It's taken me a while to get here as there are so many, so I am trying to do a few at a time. Awesome blog. And great to connect with all you great fellow bloggers.
Eve :)

Matthew MacNish said...

This is your first guest post, ever? At least you guys killed it. Well, mostly Susan.

LTM said...

@JC--clearly, I'm the last person to discover Google Earth. And I do agree with you, the actual experience can't be beat. I love traveling~ :o) <3

@Donna--Hey! I'm so glad you're here, too! I can't believe PIF is still going... :D

@Eve--Well, what do you know? You and Donna are very smart, sensible ladies taking it slow like that. Most of us don't and burnout is the result. Thanks for dropping by and Welcome! :o) <3

Janet Johnson said...

I was just reading about Susan and Open Minds over at Lenny's blog! And what a great post. It's such a great idea for how to travel the world without leaving home.

PK HREZO said...

Can't wait to read this either! So proud of Susan for taking charge and putting it out there!
I love the research part of writing a story. I did tons of research for the YA I'm writing now... 2 notebooks full. And shhhh... but I read Popular Science magazines for sheer inspiration. Love them!

LTM said...

@PK--Susan's a great writer, too. I really liked her first book and can't wait to start this one! (Nerd! ;o) <3