Posted On December 22, 2014 by Print This Post

Facts Matter Even in Fiction with Loucinda McGary

Can you ride a cable car down Lombard Street in San Francisco? Does your heroine have the view of the Hudson River from her Upper East Side apartment? Researching facts is as important as developing your character and plot. Author Loucinda McGary is here to tell you why.  

Welcome back, Loucinda! 

Thanks to Jennifer and everyone here at Romance U for asking me to be a guest. I’m excited because I’m part of a terrific holiday anthology, Candy Cane Kisses and Enchanted Embraces with ten different authors and ten different holiday romances. There are two unique things about this set of stories. First, all the authors are from beautiful Northern California and second, six of the stories are contemporary romances and four are paranormal stories.

Another thing all the stories have in common is attention to detail. We authors need to make sure everything we write “rings true.” Asking readers to suspend their disbelief is a big responsibility! If the details don’t add up, or the reader recognizes something is wrong s/he will stop reading, and the author has failed.

I always chuckle when I hear newbies say, “I’ll just write contemporary stories. Then I won’t have to do any research.” If only… No matter what I write, I always find dozens of things that I need to know in order for my story to be believable. It might be something as simple as a geographic fact or as complicated as details about a character’s profession. My Candy Cane Kisses and Enchanted Embraces (CCK&EE) colleague Cyndi Faria interviewed local firefighters in order to accurately portray the hero of her novella, Honor the Promise.

Even if all the information from your research never actually makes it into your finished product, the knowledge you’ve gleaned CCKEE_FINALwill give your writing the “authentic feel” that keeps readers caught up in your story and eagerly turning pages. This is one of the chief reasons I like to set my stories in places I’ve visited. I find it much easier to depict a locale I’ve personally experienced. My contribution to the anthology, New Year’s Endeavor is set on a cruise ship sailing the Gulf of Mexico for Belize, Honduras, and Mexico. Not coincidently, I took a cruise with the same itinerary in 2012.

All the same challenges and detailed research apply to paranormal authors as well. Creating a world with fantastical elements that is still believable and enjoyable for readers carries its own set of difficulties and rewards. And just because a story has paranormal elements does not exclude the writer from using her own personal experiences. CCK&EE author Delores Goodrick Beggs owns a pair of antique clocks not unlike those in her paranormal story The Christmas Clocks.

Similarly, CCK&EE contributor Gayle Parness researched the trees, shrubs and plants which are native to the Northern California area where she set her paranormal romance Winter Solstice. In addition, Gayle had the tricky challenge of setting her story in the same universe as her paranormal Rogue Shifters’ series. She had to be sure that all the details about the world she’d created in her previous books stayed the same so that Winter Solstice fit seamlessly into the series for her loyal fans as well as new readers.

So I think you can see from these few examples that we authors use different techniques, including our own personal experiences, to get all the details just right for our readers. I hope you’ll also see that our holiday anthology Candy Cane Kisses and Enchanted Embraces has a lot of different stories to appeal to a wide audience. Thanks again for everyone at Romance U for allowing me to share their blog today.

What are your favorite kinds of holiday stories? And what little details really make a story come alive for you?

I’ll give away downloads of CCK&EE to two lucky commenters today. Or you can buy your own copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iTunes. For only 99 cents for ten stories by ten authors, it’s a great bargain!

Join us for a holiday giveaway on Wednesday, December 24th. All you need to do is leave a comment. 

***

Loucinda McGaryBio: A Golden Heart finalist, Loucinda McGary is the author of three contemporary romantic suspense novels, The Wild Sight, The Treasures of Venice and The Wild Irish Sea. Her later books, The Sidhe Prince, High Seas Deception, His Reluctant Bodyguard, and Dead Girl in a Green Dress, and the Mozart Murders are available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.

Connect with Loucinda via Facebook and Twitter.

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28 Responses to “Facts Matter Even in Fiction with Loucinda McGary”

  1. I love a well-researched novel. It’s fun to learn about things while you’re reading fiction, be it the biology of the fight or flight response , or the inner workings of a titanium mine. My paranormal romance WIP is set in a Californian almond orchard, and deals with bees and colony collapse disorder. All these things require tons of research. But even in rough draft, its already a wonderful setting. 🙂

    Posted by Kessie | December 22, 2014, 7:39 am
    • Good morning Kessie! Thanks so much for dropping by. YAY! Always happy to hear about another story set in California. 🙂 I’ve never heard of colony collapse disorder so I’ll look forward to learning about it in your book because it sounds like you have your research well in hand.

      Happy Holidays, and hope you enjoy CCK&EE!

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 12:21 pm
  2. Even though I already know a lot about baseball, I still find it necessary to research little details. I have a copy of the collective bargaining agreement that I refer to time to time. It gets tricky when the rules change after you’ve published a series.

    Posted by Kristina Mathews | December 22, 2014, 9:47 am
    • Hey Kristina! (Aunty waves madly at her chaptermate and writer-buddy) Really appreciate you dropping by in the middle of all this holiday madess! I know what a baseball devotee you are, but you even have a collective bargaining agreement? WOW! I won’t ask how or where you came by it, but way to “research!” 😉

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 12:24 pm
  3. I used to live in Northern California and set my stories there. Even with living experience, I still research neighborhoods and facts to make sure it rings true 🙂

    Posted by Adrian | December 22, 2014, 10:06 am
    • Hi Adrian!
      You are absolutely right about still researching facts even about your hometown, or a place you think you are very familiar with. I had to do the same thing with San Francisco when I wrote my romantic suspense novel The Mozart Murders. It’s amazing the things I didn’t know!

      Appreciate you taking time to comment today and hope you enjoy reading CCK&EE.

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 12:27 pm
  4. I also research even though I write contemporary fiction. Plus, I love researching. It’s fun.

    Posted by Mercy | December 22, 2014, 10:19 am
    • Hi Mercy!
      You are absolutely right, researching IS fun! I’m always amazed at some of the tidbits I uncover. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by and hope you have a lovely holiday season.

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 12:29 pm
  5. Very timely post, Loucinda. I was originally a nurse, and any story with a ‘medically-implausible/incorrect’ medical event or problem – pulls me out of the story and I throw the book down. “She only had to ask her doctor this question! Or, research online!” – my family laughs when theis happens. In one of my current stories, I have a heroine who’s a professional potter, and carefully researched several points which would have made a real potter cringe if they were incorrect!
    Details – when correct – always keep me deep in the story. Thanks for writing this very useful article.

    Posted by Celia Lewis | December 22, 2014, 11:02 am
    • Thank you, Celia! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’ve been known to throw books down (But not since I got my Kindle — HA!) when I spot glaring errors… like the novel I started with the hero who took a long motorcycle ride WEST of Los Angeles. I hope that bike had water wings! 😛

      Also, I worked with nurses for many years, and I know how devoted and hard-working they are, so let me say an extra THANK YOU for your years in the medical field.

      Happy Holidays!

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 12:34 pm
  6. One of the things I love about being a writer is the research. I’m taking a hiatus from YA to write adult erotic romance. I’m planning on writing a series that has a human trafficking element to it and in reading a random article, discovered a nonprofit organization that actually runs missions to free children from traffickers!!! I wanted to know how they operated, so I contacted them and ended up interviewing the guy that coordinates the missions. The info he provided was both interesting and disheartening. And I might not use it all in the books, but the interview was worth it.

    Posted by Evolet | December 22, 2014, 11:12 am
    • Thanks so much for droppibg by, Evolet.
      WOW! What an interesting twist to your research. I love when things like that happen to me and my fellow writers! And you are right, even if you never use any of the actual interview in your story, the whole thing will be that much more authentic for you having experienced it.

      Have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you enjoy the stories in CCK&EE.

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 12:38 pm
  7. I love holiday stories set in small town, USA. Make me believe your fictional town actually exists. Populate it with characters who leap off the page. From the barista at the coffee shop who longs to sing opera to the busybodies who know all and see all in your little town. Make that fictional town real.

    Posted by Jill James | December 22, 2014, 1:04 pm
    • Welcome to another of the CCK&EE contributors, Jill James! Thanks for popping by Jill and you are right about memorable characters making a story seem more real, just like those in your Lake Willowbee series! 😉

      Jill’s entry in CCK&EE is a fun romp call The Christmas Con.

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 6:29 pm
  8. Everything you say is so true. I hate it when I read books and find “mistakes,” or stuff that isn’t so. On the other hand, I love to learn little tidbits about people, places and things from reading a “fiction” story. So, research and sharing, even very small facts, make the reading experience so much more enjoyable.

    Thanks for a great post.

    And – I enjoyed most of the stories in the Candy Cane series. Great idea you gals had.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Posted by Patricia | December 22, 2014, 2:47 pm
    • Hi Patricia! (Aunty waves madly at her chaptermate and good writing-buddy)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed CCK&EE. Glad you agree on the importance of research and the fun reading those interesting tidbits can be.

      Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 6:32 pm
  9. Great post, Loucinda! I’ve seen Lombard Street – I can’t imagine how cable cars could navigate that street. If they do, I doubt I’d have the nerve to ride one!

    Details are important! I still remember reading a book set at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The characters were riding on a Ferris Wheel, and that’s where the author lost me. As it was described in the book (I can’t remember the name of the book), it was an open car Ferris Wheel like you’d see today. But the World’s Fair Ferris Wheel was massive – here’s a description from the Hyde Park Historical Society:

    “The cars were 24 feet long, 13 feet wide, and 10 feet high, and weighed 26,000 pounds. Each car carried fancy twisted wire chairs for 38 of the 60 passengers. The five large plate glass windows on each side were fitted with heavy screens and the doors at each end were provided with secure locks.. firefighting equipment was carried as a safeguard.. Six platforms were arranged to speed loading and unloading, with a guard at each to signal the operator when his car was filled and locked. Conductors rode in each car to answer patrons’ questions or, if necessary, to calm their fears.”

    It wouldn’t matter to most people, but I’m a World’s Fair buff so it drove me nuts.

    Have a wonderful Christmas!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 22, 2014, 6:06 pm
    • Merry Christmas, Becke!

      WOW! Thanks for sharing that fascinating info about the World’s Fair Ferris wheel! Too bad that author and her editor/copyeditor were ‘asleep at the wheel’ on that one! Kinda like that cable car on Lombard Street. 😉

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 6:37 pm
      • I remember I liked the story, so it didn’t make a difference as far as that goes, but it DID pull me out of the story.

        I imagine the author had heard about the Ferris Wheel at the Fair and knew it was a big deal, so as far as that went, she was right to mention it. But, as this post makes clear, the devil is in the details…

        Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 23, 2014, 2:39 am
  10. Hola!

    You’re so right about how nailing the factoid lends authenticity to the story. My latest searches included the CA Dept of Fish & Game for fishing licenses, what kind of fish are native to California, and what time MLB players report to the clubhouse on game day. Those little details add up.

    It’s always a pleasure to have you with us.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | December 22, 2014, 7:17 pm
    • Merry Christmas to you, Jen!

      That’s a pretty tame list of research topics. 😉 Being a romantic suspense author, I’ve been know to look up topics like anthrax, arterial blood loss and morbidity, and various firearms and ammo. I often wonder what kind of files the FBI and/or NSA have on me. LOL!

      Can’t thank you and the rest of the RU staff for hosting me today.

      Happy Holidays to all!

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 11:18 pm
  11. I’ve always enjoyed reading a book where not only do I enjoy the characters and the story, but I learn something new as well. Those details make reading involving and memorable. Definitely worth the author’s extra effort! And I’m sure it’s interesting for the author too!That’s why I love Tom Wolfe, Mary Stewart, and Elizabeth Peters. You know that they did their homework, and it really brings their novels to life!

    Posted by Cathy | December 22, 2014, 8:12 pm
    • Thank you for stopping by Cathy!

      I’m glad to hear that all those details do make the story more memorable for you, and you’ve mentioned three of my favorite authors too! 😉 In fact, Mary Stewart’s novels were instrumental in my decision to write romantic suspese. Her settings felt so real to me that I aspired to bring that kind of authenticity to my own work.

      Hope you enjoy CCK&EE and that you have a wonderful holiday!

      Posted by Loucinda McGary | December 22, 2014, 11:23 pm
  12. Evening Aunt Cindy!

    I too love a well-researched story….Kathleen Woodiwiss comes to mind…her stories were juuuust borderline of too much information, and yet to this very day I recall the intimate little details she fed to me in her stories…

    Plus! All those little tidbits you read in stories? You definitely use them in trivia questions….=)

    (and we totally expect them all to be true!)

    thanks for another great post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 23, 2014, 12:48 am
  13. Research is fun, but it can also be a nightmare. In one of my WIPs, a character is allergic to caffeine. I was about halfway through the story when it hit me that caffeine isn’t just in beverages – it’s also in chocolate. It’s not that straight-forward, though, as I learned after several days of pursuing leads and tracking down obscure medical sources. After all that, I don’t think the caffeine allergy is going to survive the rewrites. Oh well!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | December 23, 2014, 2:42 am
  14. I spent more time researching Trickster–a contemporary novella–than I did on my three historical fantasies. Fortunately, my mother had lived on Maui so I had a ready reference. lol

    On another contemporary, I had a beach front house in Dana Point. No beaches in that particular part of California.
    Dee

    Posted by Dee Brice | December 23, 2014, 11:10 am

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