Research, Research, Research

Continuing with my current theme into writing with a Literary Agent. I have been thinking this weekend about research.
It goes without saying the importance of research if you are writing about a subject that is not familiar to you or if its something you don’t really know much about.Or if you just need to add an extra layer to your novel.
My books on Israel involved frequent visits to Israel. (It’s a hard job but someone had to do it.)
It wasn’t all about lying on a beach in Eilat. In fact, none of the research involved lying on a beach anywhere. There was some necessary drinking of Mount Carmel wine made by the tipsy nuns of the local convent. All in the name of authenticity for the books.
There were trips to the Negev desert. There were numerous bus journeys. Train journeys just to see how the country changed from year to year. Hours of sitting in bars and café’s just chatting or people watching. And visits to stranger’s houses based on whimsical fancy.
Jerusalem became an obsession of mine. And although I did not suffer from the  “Messiah Syndrome”, I did find myself fixated by anything that happened in the city. From the opening of a new restaurant to the outbreaks of violence that erupt frequently in the city often called “Hysterical Jerusalem”.
But what I have found with this my first thriller, is that well perhaps I have no need to really do research for writing about a serial killer. I get the impression so far that perhaps that was my true vocation in life. Born to be a serial killer!
I have come up with many scenarios – as to why a person could go on a killing spree. And I am finding all of them totally understandable. And several of them acceptable behaviour. No wait – ALL of them acceptable behaviour.
And then the method of killing? Again, I have not been lost for ideas. Potential victims? There is a very long list of candidates for this.
Should I be worried? Should my friends be worried? Should my neighbours ensure they have the most up to date security installed on their properties? Probably not.
Because that is the beauty of writing. No physical harm is done. You can go on a veritable grisly killing rampage and rather like a modern video game no one is harmed in the writing of the book.
And another thing I have found just how therapeutic the whole process is. Instead of inwardly fuming about someone who has pissed me off and has caused my blood pressure to surge up into the danger zone. I can just kill them off in a suitable painful manner.
It’s a form of research really. I have deduced the most satisfying method to despatch my enemies. Now when one of my colleagues walks past who I have crossed swords with in the past I can visualise myself despatching them to hades in by various methods.
They are of course blissfully unware of what is going through my mind. And I am sure if they new would be given me even more of a wide berth.
So, what is the strangest topic of research for a writer. My google search would probably send alarm bells to many a psychiatrist, members MI5 may just give me second glance. And well yes there is that once occasion when I crashed my works computer at a previous place of employment when I managed to access a part of the Israeli Defence Forces site for information on their attack dogs. It was an honest mistake, I wasn’t planning on hacking the site. But well I think my company IT department got a bit worried.
Then of course initially I had to research what constitutes a serial killer. But that was short lived when I realised no research was necessary as I had all the prerequisites myself.
Dan brown said “Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’.”
He was right there are better methods then google to research subjects. You can adopt the hands-on approach. This is one of my preferred methods. I am not going to divulge too many of the situations I have been in for the sake of my art. But suffice to say most of the time it was fun, but a few times it was just a bit too dark even for me.
One of the most productive ways to be a successful writer is by a very simple approach. Reading. If you don’t read books how can you write books?
I sometimes walk into my library, pick random books off the shelf and go home and read them objectively. I ask myself a simple question. Just what is in the book that caught the attention of a publisher? Sometimes I cannot believe a publisher would be interested. But often it is very obvious why.
I have read some amazing books this way. I have also read some absolute tosh. But it it’s a great learning curve.
We must love to read to love to write. I can’t think of one successful writer that would say, “Oh actually I have never read a my life.”
And just living is great research. Daily life experiences lend themselves to great stories.
A few years ago, my friends will be shocked to discover I found myself in a squat. It was not planned research, I was in bad place mentally, found myself in a bad place physically. Fortunately, I managed to extricate myself from both places.
Its an experience that I still remember with a certain amount of confusion. I arrived in the place when the occupants were sleeping. Slowly as the evening encroached, bodies surfaced from under piles of cardboard, dirty blankets and places where I didn’t realise a body had been asleep.
Arguments began, emotions ran high. People were a bit miffed to find a strange woman in their midst with no apparent reason for her to be there.
It hadn’t helped that when I arrived I had for some reason a Waitrose bag on me. That was quickly taken away from me the contents distributed enthusiastically to other people. Yes, I know in retrospect it was not a normal course of events.
But then what is normal? A friend recently told me I am as normal as white dog floating up to heaven.
I rather like the idea of being a white dog floating up to heaven. Do I need to google it? No. Can I imagine it? Yes. Can it really happen? Who cares?

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