Paula looks at different kinds of research
Back in the BC days (Before
Computers), research involved going to the library and sometimes spending hours
finding whatever facts, figures, and information you needed for your novel. I
recall trying several times to find out what the French flag would have looked
like in the 14th century (and failing!). Or I wrote off for information and
sometimes had to wait weeks for a reply. And I still have my original Roget’s
Thesaurus, so well used that it is falling apart because I had to flip back and
forth, searching for synonyms until I finally found the right one.
Now, of course, so much
information is at our fingertips – and how much easier research has become. It
took me less than a minute, for example, to type French Flag 1379 and find out what flag was being used at that
Facts are so easy to find
with the help of Google. Recently I’ve ‘googled’ information as varied as
cinemas in Galway, when and where swans nest, mussel farming in Killary Harbour,
and police ranks in Ireland.
We also have easy access, not
just to maps, but to Google Earth – and I LOVE Streetview! I’ve lost count of
how many times I’ve ‘driven’ around the town of Clifden and its surroundings.
And of course there are millions of photos and videos online we can use to help
us. I think I may have mentioned previously the afternoon I spent watching
videos of foals being born so that I could describe the scene I needed.
But what about the more
obscure information we can’t easily find in websites? Thanks to the internet, I
have friends all over the world I can ask for information. Sheep farming in
America? Thank you, Ana! Irish slang
expressions? Thank you to my Dublin
One evening, out of interest
(and because I do like to get my facts right!), I put a question on Facebook
(a) to my American friends asking if they knew what ‘mint imperials’ were and
(b) to my Irish friends asking if mint imperials were available in Ireland in
the 1950s. This led to some interesting answers, the result being that (a) no,
Americans don’t know what they are, and (b) kids in Ireland in the 1950s would
kill for a bag of iced caramels. So after all that, I abandoned the mint
imperials, and had iced caramels in my story instead. A very minor point, but
it’s an indication of how easy it is to find answers nowadays.
When I wrote ‘Irish
Inheritance’ and ‘Irish Intrigue’, I relied on my memory and my photos (as well
as all the other sources of information) for the background details, and of
course I was thrilled when so many reviewers commented on how my descriptions
had made Ireland come alive for them.
Next week I shall be
returning to Ireland for the first time since 2011 and I already have my
‘research’ planned. Not necessarily facts – although I shall be taking note of
how busy Clifden’s main street is at 9 o’clock on a Monday morning! However,
even more important, I shall be making a conscious effort to absorb the sights,
sounds, and atmosphere everywhere we go. Those are the details that no website
and no other person can ever truly give you – and I can’t wait to be back in