Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Toni Anderson, on Imagination

Natalie very generously invited me here to blog today. Thanks so much, Natalie.

I was thinking about what to blog about when I was struck by the concept of imagination.

IMAGINATION—power to create in one's mind

I have 3 full-length novels published. The first one is set on a ranch in Montana, the next two in Scotland. I’ve written other books set in South Dakota, Ireland, Northern Labrador, NYC, and England. Sometimes I use locations or jobs I’m familiar with but no matter how familiar I am with one aspect of a book there are still myriad details to research.

RESEARCH—examination, study

So I research like crazy, everything from location details to historical fact, witchcraft, psychic powers, police procedures, medical conditions, flying helicopters, and the psychology of everything from serial killers to phobias to growing up without a father. The first story I ever wrote was called Her Sanctuary and is published by The Wild Rose Press. I love this story, but at the time I wrote it there was no information on how the FBI dealt with art fraud so I made it up—I had to. But after Her Sanctuary was published there was a whole TV series on how the FBI dealt with art fraud and counterfeits. I was so mad. :) I’m still mad because I hate getting facts wrong, and yet it is impossible to know everything about everything. And although there is such thing as poetic licence, I’ve noticed that nowadays people like much more fact with their fiction.

When researching Sea of Suspicion (Carina Press) I contacted a Fife police officer and swung a tour of the St. Andrews’s Police Station. I’d lived in the town for years but never had reason to visit the local nick. I set the story in the Marine Lab where I’d done my graduate studies so there was no need to do endless research on the location—it’s in my bones :). But I didn’t know anything about octopods (the heroine’s area of expertise) and found myself immersed in research on a subject that probably only takes up a few sentences in the book. I now know a lot about octopods.

Storm Warning (Carina Press) is also set in Fife, although down the coast in a town called Anstruther where I lived for 6 wonderful years. But although I knew the area, I still had to spend a solid week reading books about psychics. I interrogated spoke to a psychic lady in my writing chapter (Kiss of Death) who answered all my questions about what it felt like to be psychic. The main problem writing that book was that my heroine is as ignorant as I am and didn’t understand the sensations she was experiencing at the start of this book. I also gave my hero hydrophobia (not rabies, which is what the copyeditor suggested) from a childhood incident with a couple of bullies in the local swimming pool. I know a bit about phobias but needed to see how I could make the story work with an alpha hero who is scared of water and surrounded by the stuff (my previous agent told me never to use the word fear in association with a hero—any thoughts on that?).

Research and Imagination go hand-in-hand when creating a story. I like to think of the research as the structure and the imagination as the flow of a story. I’m about to dive into another story and hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

So my question to you is how important is it to get the facts right in fiction?

Toni Anderson is a former Marine Biologist whose first Romantic Suspense novel, Her Sanctuary, was released in 2009, and her Scottish novels Sea of Suspicion & Storm Warning are available from Carina Press. She writes about her life and travels on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Readers can sign up for her occasional newsletter and check up on her latest releases on her website and Facebook Fan Page.


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

My fantasy novels take place in medievel settings and involve magic connected to earth elements. I have books and books on gems, crystals, powers of minerals and metals as well as herbs and herbal medicines. Even though the little tidbits are a small part of most of the novels, I make sure I get them right. Great post.

Toni Anderson said...

Thanks, Susan. I love hearing about the properties of different gems--especially for different star signs. And the properties of herbs and flowers.