Why do fiction authors strain to be authentic? Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it…but true. Made up stories laced with accuracy? You bet. My brother writes non-fiction books, built brick by brick with carefully researched facts, but I’ll bet I do as much research to authenticate my fiction novels as he does. We both yearn to have our readers believe that what we say is the truth.
Archives are our bread and butter, but serendipity makes our research exciting, especially to this writer, who composes from the seat of her pants. Heck, I never know what I’m going to write until I sit down at my computer!
Here’s an example. I’m surprised to be writing about people caught in a forest fire, an experience I’ve gladly never suffered. I learn from Google sources that caught in a forest fire, my characters must stay low and head downhill to water. The thing is, I’d sent my characters to a specific local area that may or may not be a place where a forest fire might happen. Have I written myself into a corner? Will I have to change the setting of the whole book, requiring hours of rewriting?
So I check the local fire department records for past fires. Two years ago, a brushfire swept the exact area I’d chosen for my nail-biting scene to take place-two years ago. The conflagration burnt more than a thousand acres, with hundreds of firefighters, fire trucks, a helicopter and a fixed wing plane helping to put it out. Camping grounds had to be evacuated and roads closed as the forest service controlled the fire.
Can you believe my luck? I’d already inserted a helicopter in my scene, but newspaper articles about the event gave me names of roads (I didn’t have to make up), numbers of acres burned, and other details I could use verbatim!
How I love being an author when serendipity sits with me in my desk chair. Have you got a lucky story to tell about when your made-up facts and reality aligned in such a magical way?
Speaking of magic, my third book in the boutique funeral planner series, will come out early in 2015. Catch up on the suspense by reading FADEOUT, the first book in the series:
More on my website: http://www.rolynnanderson.com