Unless an author is writing about a subject that he/she knows absolutely everything about, then a certain amount of research is necessary.
When I started my first novel, Inheritance, I wanted to write a story about a young city woman who inherits a cattle station in Far North Queensland, and the problems she encounters as she struggles to make a success of her inheritance. I also wanted to portray something of the country’s beauty – and the hidden danger that lurks in this amazing place, which I had grown to love.
As I began to write I realized that I actually knew very little about cattle stations, except that they have heaps of land and hundreds of cattle, so I went online to find out more. Just what is involved in running a cattle station? It was the same with rodeos – how are all those buck-jumpers judged? And exactly what does a crocodile do when it takes a victim? All fascinating stuff! The danger is that it’s easy to become side-tracked, and to spend hours reading all the interesting peripheral bits instead of writing.
Sometimes research itself ends up providing the inspiration for a story. On moving to the mid-north coast of New South Wales, I became interested in the history of a small near-by town called Bulahdelah. It was settled early in the 1800’s, when timber cutters discovered large tracts of the much prized red cedar trees there. I began to wonder about the women who came with their men. How did they fare in those early days? My research found that, for many, not very well. This set me on the road to research the situation of all women at that time, and I discovered that women had little say in their own lives. Considered by law and custom to be inferior to men in all respects they were often treated as chattels. Dependent on men for their emotional and material sustenance, they were expected to be dutiful homemakers, and bedwarmers for their husbands without expecting sexual pleasure themselves in return. Many suffered physical abuse, but had no redress under the laws of the time.
It was in a state of indignation at what this research had revealed that I commenced writing An Independent Woman, the first book in the Redwoods series, about a woman who bucks the system, and how she finally manages to make a life for herself in spite of male prejudice.
Prior to all this, my first research was many years ago when, as a young mother, I found my weight was creeping up. Never having been thin, and having what is politely described as an hourglass figure, I was very conscious of the extra kilos. So I began to search for a diet that would slim me down. What I found was that while they many of them work in the short term, none of them had lasting results. As soon as I started eating normally again, up crept the weight, so I tried to find a better way. Exercise helped, but not enough, and I continued to seek a better way. It was not until I went back to school a few years later and studied to receive a diploma as a natural beauty therapist, which involved the research and study of nutrition, in which I found many factors contribute to permanent weight control and good health. Over the years I have helped many clients to normalize their weight and, although now retired, I still keep up with the latest research on the subject. In response to many requests, I am now compiling a book to help others gain the knowledge they need to control their weight permanently and achieve the good health they deserve.
Yes, research is absorbing, enlightening and addictive. And you never know where it will lead you!