If you know an author, then you’ll realize that they’re not entirely…stable folks. They talk to the voices in their heads. If they see something unique, BAM, it goes in a book. No one is entirely safe around them.
Nadine Brandes is an especially adventuresome sort. In honor of her book release this week of A Time To Speak, the second book in the Out of Time series, I picked her brain as we compared experiences we’ve done for writing research.
Nadine, I’ve seen some conversations online of crazy things you’ve done for researching your book. But you write speculative fiction. Isn’t that all made-up stuff anyway?
Stepping out of our understanding of normal is what connects spec-fic books with real life. Think about it. Fantasy/sci-fi novels create new worlds. . .and traveling to a different country is like being immersed in a new world. You’re forced to see things differently, to interact differently, to stretch into a new and adaptable person in order to function.
I agree totally. You remember the sensory details, your imagination is heightened, and you are inspired. I’ve been blessed to travel overseas myself. In fact, I used a lot of situations from my Thailand travels for my first book. What was a recent international adventure for you that helped you in writing?
I had the privilege of transiting the Panama Canal on a pretty little 44-foot sailboat. The same sailboat that instigated my adventure of being a sea-cook, in fact.
Here’s how it all came about:
At a certain point, in one of my books (no, I won’t tell you which one!) a character travels through the Panama Canal. My dad’s boat just happened to be traveling through the Panama Canal this January as it is being moved to the west coast. In Dad’s words, “You can’t not go, Nadine.”
Shoot, who could pass that up? Now that I’m writing a YA novel set in Silicon Valley, when visiting family in the Bay Area we toured the headquarters of Google and Facebook for research. Anything more local that you’ve done lately?
I live in the type of place where I can post on Facebook, “Anyone have dogsledding connections? I need it for book research,” and the next day I get a message from a friend saying, “I can get you a ride!”
I know, I’m spoiled.
So last March, I went on my first all-day dogsled ride to Granite Hot Springs out in the wilderness.
After some mushing commands, some dog intros, some warnings about flying off the back of the sled at the take-off (“Excuse me?!”), I hopped on, pressing down the brake with all my weight. And then, with a very un-Hollywoodish, “Alright, hike!” we took off.
I was an official musher.
Wow. And I thought it was interesting when I took a scooter for a test ride to see how to control the thing. Let’s see, what else have I done? Running on the beach to understand a getaway scene, trying out rock climbing walls, watching videos on YouTube of medical procedures. Any other research items stand out?
1. Walked a tightrope four stories off the ground (yes, I had a harness.) Also walked on slacklines without a harness.
2. Crawled across a river on a log
3. Chased down a boxcar train to record sounds, movement, and the size of boxcars.
4. Ate grilled cattails
5. Sailed on the open sea for four days, getting ridiculously seasick.
6. Ate a raw potato
7. Rock climbed real cliffs and man-made rock walls, as well as frayed ropes to get the right feel.
8. Walked through a cattail pond barefoot to get an idea of what it’d be like to be stuck in one for weeks.
Okay. I’d say you win. But I’m not going down easily. Anyway, what would you say to aspiring authors about research and being so adventurous?
Life experiences and adventuring have everything to do with writing! Stories I can use in my future novels, stories I can write about for you to use in your future novels, stories to inspire others in their future novels. Or stories that don’t have to be in novels at all–they can just be memories! My life is my greatest story. I’m a storyteller and writing is what I’m called to do. I can’t just limit it to fiction.
That’s great advice for anyone, not just a writer. Memories and stories to tell are priceless.
Since everyone’s probably intrigued with Nadine now, here’s where you can find her online.
And check out her books, A Time To Die and A Time To Speak. She’s got a great adventure going on in those pages. I’ll have a review of Speak next week. Check out the Amazon link or enter the contest below to win a free copy!