Archive for April 11th, 2012
“Research,” Zora Neale Hurston writes, “is formalized curiosity.” As I’ve said many times before, it’s also a way of dreaming. At its best, research in fiction isn’t so much about factual accuracy—although accuracy and plausibility are important virtues in their own right—as it is a means of gathering the raw material for stories. Much of what we call creativity comes from unexpected combinations, from taking ideas that haven’t been put together before and seeing what happens when we place them side by side, and research is often the only way we have of uncovering such juxtapositions. If more authors saw research as a chance to play, rather than as the dull accumulation of facts, it might have a better reputation among serious writers. Speaking for myself, I can say that it’s one of the most pleasurable aspects of the writing process, second only, perhaps, to revision.
This is all my way of saying that I have a guest post today on the charming Marlyn Beebe’s blog, Stuff and Nonsense, in which I discuss my research process while writing The Icon Thief. I focus, in particular, on how I researched the world of art theft, a subject that forced me to rely almost entirely on secondary sources and my own imagination. As I describe more fully on Marlyn’s blog, I began by casting my net wide, reading as much as I could on art theft and security without any particular sense of what I was trying to find. What I was doing, instead, was assembling pieces, sometimes an idea for a scene, often just an interesting fact, hoping that they would cling together in unexpected ways. And in the end, thankfully, they did. (I should also note that Marlyn is giving away two copies of The Icon Thief in the comments, so if you haven’t had a chance to pick up the novel yet, you should run over there now.)