It’s an honor to welcome back Eva Montealegre as a guest poster. Today, she’s taking up a topic near and dear to my heart: research.
Research work has been a critical aspect of my life. My first paid gig doing research was for a small production company in Santa Monica researching American History from 1492 to present day. Much of my work was completed at the research library on the UCLA campus. Fortunately, for me and the company, the work I did granted the company a contract. At that point, I had the pleasure to continue my research at the National Archives and the Library of Congress. Finally, my research work was completed at the libraries of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and private stock footage libraries of several different movie studios. That might sound impressive and I certainly was excited about every step I took on my journey. I had previous experience working at the Getty Center with ancient texts and valuable books and it was an eye opener. The information I gleaned from these new resources from my own impetus was astonishing and exhilarating. Books have always been a means to other worlds. In this new way of relating to books I would have seemingly endless information available to me. Yes, that was one of my favorite early adventures. To this day, I recommend that the closer you can get to the source of your interest the better.
Later in my research career, I performed medical research for a grant that financed discoveries in dementia and Alzheimer’s. This work was painful and often horrible in the process of discovery. The reality could be extremely depressing and discouraging. Even in this unattractive reality, valuable information was discovered that would help doctors, nurses, and their patients. Even when what we discover is distressing or heartbreaking, adventure is a good word to express the work of research. If we are willing to dive in with our minds and hearts open, the realms of life that can open to us are exponential.
When I researched my first crime novel, BODY ON THE BACKLOT, I had the rare opportunity to work with homicide investigator, Joe Lumbreras, Detective of the Year. That year of research allowed me to have countless insights into my female detective, Joan Lambert. I dressed and behaved in a manner appropriate to LAPD investigation personnel. Soon, I was going through phone records, murder books, and helping to canvas neighborhoods. I learned to access methods and attitudes of the passionate detective. I still hold those associations precious and stay in contact with Joe as well as Mike DePasquale, the Homicide Coordinator. The ability to blend is essential. Otherwise, you may interrupt the reality, the world that you wish to know. If you are an anomaly in the environment you wish to learn about, you may come into pushback and rejection. The requirement to address you and your agenda may become the center of attention instead of the activity you wish to observe.
In creating the world for your reader, you can be creative and must be, but you also need it to be believable so your reader can trust the story and stay with you. If possible, get every detail right, get the facts straight, be true to the personalities involved. In this way, you honor those who assisted you in your quest. Your portrayal, your painting of characters and their actions can have resonance and meaning for your readers and fans.
In researching my second book in the Joan Lambert series, I’ve gone to places I never imagined and I’m better for it. I wish the same for you. Enjoy the adventure.