Wow. I really had never thought about how much research goes into writing a novel – until I wrote a novel. And I don’t think my novel is particularly research-heavy. After all, it has a fantastical premise that is based in my imagination. So in terms of what my protagonist is doing… there’s really no precedent to research.
That said, the story is set in modern-day New York, both Manhattan and Brooklyn, with the characters enjoying adventures in various lovely locations, including the Hamptons, Venice and Lummi Island off the Washington State coast. I’ve been to some of those places, but not all, and I want to make sure that my story is as authentic as possible. Authentic to street level. To the very brick. I want to make my reader feel like they are actually there.
Also, my romantic hero, Rob, is a real estate developer in Manhattan, and this needs to come across as believable too. Which buildings in which neighbourhoods his fictional company might have developed, where he lives, the local restaurants he dines in, the brokers he supposedly works with, the reality TV shows they might star in, and so on.
Further, my protagonist, Josie, has a significant cycling accident at a particular intersection in Manhattan. I had to calculate an intersection that would make sense in terms of where she might work versus where she could be riding her bike to on that day, and combined that with all the other factors that make this particular spot suitable for this event. Even this was no easy feat.
All of which means hours and hours of Googling. Days, even. Poring over maps of multiple cities, walking around endlessly in street view. Looking at New York office buildings, bars, restaurants. Scouring tourist websites, domestic and international flights, luxury hotels and spas, Venice festival websites, 18th-century Italian formal wear, Venetian clothing hire stores. Researching the Lummi First Nation community, its territory and history. The list goes on and on. I’m even about to undertake my second research trip to New York to look closer at the places I’m writing about.
It’s been truly fascinating to discover and develop the world(s) [spoiler right there!] in which Josie and Rob live. It has made me really feel like I’ve lived there and experienced what my characters are going through. And if I feel that way when I’m writing, hopefully my readers will feel that way too.
What an unexpectedly rewarding part of the writing process.