One of the fun things about being a writer is that you never know where you'll find inspiration. Saturday, I was so looking forward to my historic homes tour because, though I love old houses, I also needed to have a complete picture in my head of an antebellum mansion for one of my books. And going on this tour delivered in spades!
From the gardens to the infinity edge pool, the 200 yr-old oak trees, the plaster friezes and medallions, the leaded glass, the art gallery (!), and the indoor racketball court, this house had it all. It had the new and the old all meshed together in a home built in 1858. And, this person had more art on the walls of this home (not to mention in the art gallery he'd built) than the official art museum downtown has. In fact, as I was walking through, I saw the original painting of a print I have. Talk about stunned. Who knew?
Though I'd gone to see the house, it was actually the gardens that inspired me. I'd envisioned my antebellum mansion having gardens, but I hadn't envisioned the gardens to this extent. Now, I know what the sweeping lines look like — the ornamental grasses, the statuary, the fountains, the trees, the benches — and I can remember them while I write.
Of course it's possible to get your inspiration from a research book, too. I've certainly done that when I needed something. For one of my books, I need a jungle. I've lived in Hawaii, so I've seen jungles of a sort, but I can't go to a South American jungle for research. Hence the book I bought that details living and traveling through jungles. Cool.
For my Harlequin Presents, THE SPANISH MAGNATE'S REVENGE, I have a bag full of things I got in Madrid — maps, brochures, postcards — and the photos I took. I loved Madrid. What a fabulous, lively place! I'd go back in a heart beat. Maybe my Spanish magnate has a brother who needs a book. Even a friend would do. I'd have an excuse to go explore those art galleries again, to sit in the Plaza Mayor and sip a Tio Pepe.
This July, I'm going to New Orleans for a family trip. I'm looking forward to that because I plan to, you guessed it, use the trip for research. It's been many years since I've been there, and I want to explore the French Quarter, take the River Road trip to see the plantations, and enjoy the local food. I never know what will strike me as something I need for a story, you know?
Do you have any favorite research methods? Do you travel for inspiration? Have you ever used a place you've been as a setting, or used an element from it, in your stories? If you could go anywhere to research a setting, where would you go?
Trust me–I plan to start going places then setting books there!
🙂 For some reason, the desert is my setting. I grew up in the desert. I now live in the desert.
Your word count worm has just grown so much since I was last here been here 🙂 no wonder your hands hurt!
City settings seem to be my thing… at least at the moment, mainly because that’s where most of my holidays have been lately.
I read an article about an author (I can’t remember his name but it was a he) who went to China on a holiday and then rewrote an entire book to include something about China because his accountant had insisted!
I guess you have to weigh the tax deduction with the cost of trying to insert it into a completed 100,000+ novel… but I doubt your eyes would thank you at the end of it!
PC: yep, trips to fascinating places where one can set books are a great idea!
Cyn: You do seem to write about the desert a lot. Hmm. 🙂
Nikki: OMG, I can’t imagine going back in and inserting a setting just to get a tax write off! But, I suppose if it was going to save me a lot of money, I’d figure it out. 🙂 And city settings are good, I think!!
In my mind, the desert represents the subconsicous and the occult.
🙂 That would explain it, I think.