Whenever I decide to write a series of books, my husband and I always visit the area where the books will be set in order to get a feel for it. We also get to know some of the people who live in the area, which gives me a connection even after we’ve gone home. Before I wrote my stand-alone novel, “Lydia’s Charm,” we visited Charm, Ohio several times. We also became acquainted with some Amish families who live in the area, which really helped me get the feel of the Amish community there.
By visiting many of the shops and businesses in Charm, I was able to make the story seem real to my readers who may have visited or plan to visit there. Some of the places we visited in Charm were Keim Lumber, Miller’s Dry Goods, Charm Shoe and Boot Store, and Grandma’s Homestead Restaurant. While we were having lunch at the restaurant one day, we saw a waitress walk off the job. This gave me a great scene idea for the book, as I pondered the question as to why the woman had left so abruptly, leaving many of us without the food we had ordered.
During my research I make sure to take lots of notes regarding the types of trees; flowers; landscape; birds; insects; wildlife; fish in ponds, lakes, and rivers; types of homes; roads; street signs; places of business; and anything else that I might decide to mention in my novels. I also learn about the types of crops that are grown in the area, and what the weather is like throughout the year. I write down any sounds I hear, such as the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, dogs barking, cows mooing, horses neighing, geese honking, or any unusual bird or insect sounds. I was particularly interested in the noisy buzz of the cicadas when we were in Kentucky doing research for my upcoming Kentucky Brothers series.
While researching my historical series, The Brides of Lehigh Canal, my husband and I rode a restored canal built, pulled by two mules, part of the way up the Lehigh Navigation System near Easton, Pennsylvania. We walked the towpath in order to get a feel for what it was like for my main character when she led the mules that pulled her father’s canal boat from Easton to Mach Chunk to pick up loads of coal. We visited two locktender’s homes along the canal, and spent time in the canal museum in Easton, where I gathered some additional information. All of these things helped me get the feel of what it was like to live and work on the canal in the 1800s.
Along with my note-taking, my husband photographs many things we think I might mention in my novels. By having the pictures to look at, when we get home, I’m able to put myself in the scene and remember what it was like when we were in the area we visited.
One thing I always try to remember when I’m researching a book is to use all of my senses and record what I hear, see, smell, feel, and taste. I believe all of those things help bring my books to life.