Research Rabbit Holes can be fabulously inspirational, or horribly time wasting. They can take you in directions that are wildly irrelevant to your story, or can help you add layers of authenticity and meaning to your work. In this series of blog posts I’m sharing some of my favourite journeys down these Research Rabbit Holes, and I’ve also asked some other writers about their experiences falling into these diabolical black holes of eternal fascination.
Today’s guest is Alan Baxter, award-winning author of dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, including the Alex Caine and Balance series. I threw some questions at Alan and here’s what he had to say.
Tell me a little bit about your latest book and what sort of research you needed to do to write this story.
My current novel in progress is a kind of supernatural crime noir thing. Hard to describe, really! It’s set in London and there’s research as well as memory there, as I lived in the UK until my mid-20s and know London well, but still needed to confirm things and double check locations. Google Earth is great for that kind of research. I also needed to research some organised crime and police procedural stuff. All kinds of fun!
How does research fit into your writing process? Do you research first, then write, or do you research as you write?
I do some research first, then more as needed as I go along.
Is research a distraction or an inspiration?
Both! I love it though – one of the best things about writing fiction is the research avenues it can send you down.
What was the weirdest thing you had to research?
Probably cults and brainwashing for my novel, MageSign. Weird, but fascinating.
When you’re writing secondary-world or alternate-world stories, how does real-world research contribute to your world-building?
Suspension of disbelief is essential, especially in alternate world stuff, so the more you make the little things convincing, the easier it is to sell the big fantastical things.
Have you ever researched something that made you abandon a story idea?
Not yet! You can always accommodate it, but it does often mean changing what you were planning.
Tell me about a time when your research threw up something that changed your story or a character.
A novella I wrote recently was another one based around crime and police work. Every time I discovered how the police would respond to a certain part of the story, the next part had to change to accommodate that. The whole story kept changing to prevent the police solving the situation before my ideas could play out!
Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.