Thursday, April 03, 2008

BOM: the Research

Yea!  Right around lunch time yesterday I made a couple of final tweaks on SHE'S IN A BETTER PLACE, the final Fairlawn book, and clicked "send."  It is now officially on my editor's desk and off mine. 

Which is not to say I don't have a lot of cleaning up to do.  I have tons of files and books about the death care industry scattered around my workspace, so I'll have to get those stacked up and put away.  But it can wait--I have packed a suitcase (again!) and am heading out for a speaking gig in Mt. Dora on Thursday.  Since the Fairlawn series is SET in Mt. Dora, this will be a serendipitous experience.  

Next?  I'm going to work on a couple of proposals for my agent, then I'm jumping into the research for the next book, tentatively titled GHOST or SHADOW.  It's a high concept story and I'm really excited about it.  

Back to A TIME TO MEND--

How does one begin to research a book on breast cancer? I started with my heroine's occupation: Jacqueline Wilkes is an oncology nurse, and one of my friends, Beth Dalessandro, happens to have that exact job.

Beth invited me to the clinic where she works, so I spent a morning visiting her workplace, looking around, and talking to the doctor for whom she works. Beth taught me about protocols, videos for entertainment during chemo drips, and all the lingo that nurses need.

I also had to research the setting: Winter Haven, Florida, which happens to be the town where I was born. I chose Winter Haven because it's a lovely place with mild winters and more than one hundred lakes--something different. Fortunately, my aunts have lived in the area for ages, so they helped me insert area lakes and landmarks.

The dog? Jacqueline has a mastiff, and that's easy because I have one, too. I've had four mastiffs, and they are great dogs. Jacqueline's love for her dog is the same love I feel for my own gentle giants.

When Steeple Hill decided to reissue the book, I had to call Beth again. I pulled out the pages of the manuscript that had medical information and she took them to the doctor she works with. He updated all the protocols and statistics so we'd be sure we were dealing with cutting edge material.

The spiritual aspects? The book reflects where I was ten years ago spiritually . . . and what I was learning about life and death and our approach to them. I hope the peace I feel about living and dying comes through.

I did a lot of reading on breast cancer, but I had already done a lot of research on that disease when I wrote THE PROPOSAL (that's a novel, not a synopsis and three sample chapters). Sometimes you can get two books for the research of one. (VBG).

Research did require some time, but probably no more than a week. When you have a good source, you can cut through the unnecessary details and get to the information that matters. You want good information, you want it to sound complete, but you don't want to weigh your reader down with extraneous details.

Tomorrow: The writing

~~Angie

5 comments:

Lisa said...

I think I'll skip the old library copy, and go get the new updated one instead. The Proposal was a great book! I have had to lay off the reading for the past few days. After spring break, it's hard to get the kids and myself back into the swing of things.
I like you blog because it gives my an appreciation for what you do. What takes you months to get to the public, I read through in 2 days. I do appreciate what you do, and God has showed me so many truths through the stories you write. Have a safe trip!

Lisa

CrownLaidDown said...

Praying for your travels and speaking!

I really enjoyed "A Time to Mend." And it really gave me perspective. I have not had anyone very close to me go through breast cancer--but have friends, who have lost loved ones. What a blessing your writing is, Angela!

I like the title, "Ghost." Looking forward to reading it and passing it along.

Mocha with Linda said...

Oh I love this blog! Would have been fun to shadow you on the oncology research on this one!

(Can't wait to hear the research on the Fairlawn series!)

Speaking of Fairlawn, too bad you just finished the last one. Here's an idea straight from today's news: a guy in Spain broke into a funeral home but they caught him when they discovered him "playing dead" in a glassed-in chamber used for viewings. His cover was blown, so to speak, because (1) he was breathing, and (2) he was rather grungily dressed instead of in his Sunday best burial clothes!

Thought that would give you a grin!

Angela said...

Thank you, Lisa and Holly, for your sweet notes. And Linda, LOL--if you only knew how close the situation you described is to a subplot in the third book! But I can't say any more without spoiling it--in fact, forget what I just said. :-)

The one nice thing about this trip is I can have my eyes open for Mt. Dora landmarks that I might be able to work into the third book when I do my revisions (what happens after my editor reads it and helps me gain perspective.) On the drive up, I noticed that there's a lot more vacant land up here than there is in my part of the Sunshine state.

Angie

Kristin said...

Hey! I just discovered your blog a week or so ago and I really have enjoyed hearing everything that you've written. I have read many of your books and am currently reading the first Fairlawn book. It's kind of fun to see inside your writing process, so thanks for sharing!