What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of April 15? Tax deadlines? Flowers in bloom? Spring fever? April showers? The fact that in less than two months, half the year will be over? The aura of love in the air and the realization that you’re going to have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince? April 15 is all that and more.
To me, April conjures up dreams of faraway places and vacations. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in my life for both business and pleasure. But I’m addicted to traveling. So there are a lot more places I’d like to go.
I’ve never gone to a place just to do research for a book, but that idea appeals to me. However, I have set books in places that I’ve traveled to and loved, like Italy, where I went to school for six months; Miami, Florida, where I was born; Gainesville, Florida, where I went to college; Palm Coast, Florida, where I have a beach condo; and Bermuda, where I’ve spent many wonderful vacations.
When I’m at the beach, I wake up for every sunrise, get out my notebook while it’s still quiet or sit out on my deck facing the ocean. I look out at the waves, the sand, the sun, the birds and the boats, and describe what I see. Many of those impressions have ended up in the pages of my book.
For the book that was set in Bermuda, I had to do research on the history of the island because the story was set in WW II. I have memories of Bermuda as it is today, but not as it was then. That book never sold (I was told that WW II wasn’t a popular time period for a romance, but I know I’ll come back to that book one day).
Wherever you decide to set your book, you are only as far away as your computer.
Once in an RWA seminar, I heard Nora Roberts say she does all her research on-line and doesn’t travel to the location. Furthermore, she does her own research. Nevertheless, her books have a wonderful sense of place. Alas, we can’t all be Nora Roberts.
I’m sure many writers select settings for their books and travel to those locations to do research. I think that would be a great way to approach a project.
What do you think? Do you have to visit a place before you can effectively write about it? Do you have to be there? What about other writers you know? Do they prefer to visit the location where their books are set or do they do their research via the Internet? Can you write a story that rings true if it’s set in a location you’ve never actually seen? Or are your imagination and the Internet the only tickets you need to your destination?