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