One of the most exciting advantages of being a fiction writer is being able to research and learn about things I would have otherwise never taken the opportunity to explore. Before I authored novels, even topics of interest to me often fell behind my daily duties of wife and mother and, try as I may, I could never find adequate time to read about them. That has all changed. I can now sit down in front of my computer and read for hours, if I want, without feeling like I should be doing something else. My reading time has become guilt-free because now it falls under the guise of “conducting research for my next novel.” I have even gone as far as to tell my husband that I have to read certain books on the best-seller list so that I can understand from a marketing perspective what is selling. Though this argument holds some validity, he doesn’t always buy it; especially when I forget to make dinner because my nose is buried in Fifty Shades of Gray.
When I first began writing the Just Call Me Angel series, I dove into a deep exploration of the Mafia, from their familial hierarchy to their principles of trust and demand for loyalty. I studied weapons, enemies, police protocol and lingo. I learned what it meant to me “made” and the gory details of an “ice and dice.” For months I strode around my house saying things like, “badda-bing-badda-boom” and “don’t make me make you an offer you can’t refuse.” Suffice to say, my husband and children are well-versed in mob speak.
At almost every book club event, I am asked this question: How do you research for your novels? The obvious answer is that I read a tremendous amount on the internet and in books, newspapers and magazines. I believe to thoroughly research any topic you’ve got to look at it from every available angle.
When writing House of Lies, I took an in-depth look at five cult groups in America and found this research to be both fascinating and frightening. I went beyond just reading and spoke to many cult members, both present and past; interviewed family members of those involved in cult groups, spoke to some of the leadership of those groups, and recorded numerous testimonies from those who stood for the groups and those who stood against them. I wanted to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly from every perspective.
For me, researching is exciting but it is after conducting all of my research that the really fun part begins….the creative writing.
As a fiction writer I research so that I can create a viable platform of believability in my stories. That being said, if some tidbit of realism doesn’t fit with my plot, I have the liberty of altering reality. For example: if in reality a particular gun clip only holds eight rounds but I need to shoot ten people, I can create a gun with a clip that holds the number of bullets I need. That’s the beauty of fiction. Anything can happen.
I am currently writing the fifth book in the Just Call Me Angel series and am studying nerve gases, autopsies and morgue procedures. It’s interestingly dark in content, but acquiring the knowledge I would have otherwise not possessed makes it somehow delightful.
There are many fiction writers who do not conduct research before creating their stories. After all, it isn’t necessary in fiction. A part of me envies their ability to jump out of the gate and move full-steam into a story they have created entirely from scratch. The other part of me is thankful for the opportunity to learn at every turn, because you never know when that rare bit of information will prove helpful in the real world.
If being a writer has taught me anything it’s that knowledge is essential because in life, just like fiction… anything can happen. ~
Susan Claridge (writing under the pen name, S.R.Claridge) is a graduate from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She began her writing career being published for her poetry, greeting cards and lyrics and expanded her craft into script writing; finally finding her niche in the fictional world of mystery and suspense. She says it is her degree in Psychology and her background in Theatre that help her write the spontaneous twists and turns that keep her readers guessing until the very end.
On a personal note, Claridge thinks Friday nights are made for Mexican food and Margaritas and Sunday mornings warrant an extra-spicy Bloody Mary. She loves moonlight, candles and a Grey Goose Martini with bleu cheese olives. Rooted in a strong faith, Claridge believes in forgiveness, in Jesus, in miracles and angels and in the power of prayer; professing openly that any good thing in her comes from God. She believes in true love and that people can change. Her writing style has been compared to the humor of Janet Evanovich, the suspense of Mary Higgins Clark and the action of Dan Brown.
Claridge currently has seven books on the market, all published through Vanilla Heart Publishing.
For more information about S.R.Claridge, please visit her website and blog.
A Political Cult Suspense
A strange message sets Skylar Wilson on a perilous journey to save her sister from a deadly cult. Searching for answers, Skylar discovers that the cult stretches far beyond its pseudo-evangelical, House of Prayer veil, penetrating the upper echelon of the United States government and pushing a lethal international agenda.
To expose the truth, she must first unravel the lies, each one leading her down a trail of deadly scandals and mysterious deaths. For this nightmare to end, Skylar will have to take her sister back to where it all began.