I spend six months researching each book I write. I gave you a little glimpse at what that process looked like for Tiffany Girl in my interview post a few weeks ago, but today, I thought it would be fun to go deeper into one of my very favorite parts of my research: travel!
It’s so exciting to see all the places my characters might have visited and imagine how they would have lived their lives. From the outside looking in, I’m sure touring exciting places like New York City and soaking up historical details hardly sounds like work, right?! But trust me, it is. Each day I hit the pavement early and don’t get back to the hotel until after dark.
The minimum amount of time I need to get a good feel for the setting and to make it to all the stops I have on my list is ten days. Before I leave my house in Texas, I like to do as much reading about the history of the city I’m visiting as I possibly can so that I know where to go and what to look out for. I’ve gotta be a woman with a plan because once I arrive, there are too many places to visit and too little time. It’s always a total whirlwind!
Historical societies, local libraries, museums and the local section of a used bookstore always make it onto my must-stop list. There are lots of hidden gems to be found at places like those. In my case, hidden gems usually take the form of two boxes full of used, dusty books to take back home with me. Sometimes, I get really lucky, and find a book that was written at the turn of the century!
On my latest research trip to New York, I spent tons of time at the Historical Society taking photos of all the Tiffany Lamps they had on display. Aren’t they SO beautiful?
After raiding the local bookstores and the other mainstays, I like to take long walks around the city (and go on a bus tour if they have one) to get a taste of the local culture. I try to stick as much as I can to the same streets and neighborhoods where my characters would have spent their time. That helps so much down the road when I have a lot of descriptive writing to tackle!
Next up, I pay a visit to a local historic home from the time period that my book is set in. Sometimes, it’s tough to find one that’s still standing, but I usually manage. During my Tiffany Girl research trip, I got to tour the Rockefeller estate in Kykuit, and I had a blast! It was so neat to imagine the Rockefellers walking through the halls and playing in the gardens.
These trips may seem like a great opportunity for a vacation, but I always go alone and they’re not at all relaxing. I’m paying attention to all the nitty-gritty details so that when it comes time to sit down and write, I don’t leave out a single detail. I do have one confession, though. I did make just a little time for a show during my New York trip. I simply couldn’t resist and managed to snag some tickets to Cinderella on Broadway during opening week.
Ohmygosh, it was soooooo good!