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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Enjoy the research process of novel writing with Sue Bentley. Also... win a signed copy of WE OTHER!! #win #freebook #WeOther .@suebentleywords #blogtour #fantasy #lowfantasy #scifi #research #darkfantasy #YA .@rararesources

Sue Bentley
author of
Luckily I love research – sometimes, a little too much. It can be so fascinating that I can happily get absorbed in it for hours and get no work done on my WIP. I’ve learned to discipline myself.

I do extensive research while building my characters and their backgrounds. I like to plot quite a lot of the book before I begin writing. In that respect I’m a plotter more than a panster, but if a book goes off in a more interesting direction when I get stuck into it, I’ll go with it. In the same way, if a character starts doing unexpected things as I get to know them better and the result is more drama and tension than I’d planned, I’ll allow them to lead me down a different path to the one I was expecting.

For me, writing’s like going on a journey and then getting side-tracked. It can turn into a bit of a muddle. But I’ve discovered roads and by-ways, I never expected to find. And somehow, or other, the book turns out all right in the end.

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This is because writing is an art. For me there’s no absolute right or definite way to approach it. We all find our way through the tangled woods of a long book. It’s not a straight concrete road from start to finish. Every book throws up new challenges. The only thing one can be certain of, is that writing doesn’t get any easier. I’ve learned to accept there will be good and bad days. A bad writing day, can turn into a great opportunity to do some research.

I might need to know something in particular, perhaps about a poison, which has a specific effect. (As I needed for my WIP, entitled Second Skin, just completed.) I’ll research it by looking on-line and/ or checking one of my hundreds of books; one day the house will sink under the weight of all the books I own. I’m after ideas, not accuracy as I don’t write non-fiction. I particularly enjoy researching history, especially the fine detail of how people in the past lived. What they ate, what they wore, how they earned their living. Politics of the day, dry lists of dates, and which monarch was on the throne, interests me only in so as far as they affected people living at the time.

I write fantasy, sometimes side-by-side with a contemporary setting – as in We Other. So I’ll choose what to discard and what is useful. For the poison for example, I took an element from a number of different herbs, blended them into something to suit my requirements, and named it sleep-weed - which is self-explanatory.

I know of writers who travel widely while doing research. They need to see and experience the areas they visit, perhaps smell the spices of some exotic market or describe the velvet star-studded night over a dessert. I make such journeys in my imagination, although I might draw on my love of folklore and interest in different cultures. It might suit a story to take elements of life in medieval Europe and blend it with aspects of early Native American culture. The most interesting things often happen at the interface when cultures collide.

Most things I write contain an element of fantasy, even if it’s a contemporary novel. I make things up, sometimes entire worlds and cultures. So the sky’s the limit for my imagination, but everyone needs a starting point. That’s where research comes in.

You can find out anything. If you truly need expert advice, find an expert to speak to. Or look at the books the experts use. Need to find out how to deal with a maggot-ridden wound or safely amputate a limb? Consult a nursing manual or ask a friendly surgeon. Want to know about Police procedures? Buy the Police Training Manual. You often hear people advising writers to, ‘write about what they know.’ To that, I’d add – write about what you can find out. Research for me, doesn’t mute a good plotline, it provides the details that enhance it. And it can lead to completely new strands of the story, or become the focus of a dramatic scene.

During research, I often find golden nuggets of detail, which add a whiff of authenticity to my writing. For example it was once fashionable to wear heavily powdered wigs, have a heavily powdered white face and dust little circles of rouge on one’s cheeks. Rouge was expensive, so to display one’s wealth, a liberal covering would be used. Apparently the Empress Josephine’s face resembled a ripe tomato. 

Thank you for hosting me for the We Other blog tour. I enjoyed looking more closely into the subject of research.

We Other 
Family secrets, changelings, and fairies you never want to meet on a dark night.
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Jess Morgan’s life has always been chaotic.
When a startling new reality cannot be denied, it’s clear that everything she believed about herself is a lie. She is linked to a world where humans – ‘hot-bloods’ – are disposable entertainment.
Life on a run-down estate – her single mum’s alcoholism and violent boyfriend – become the least of Jess’s worries.
Sue Bentley discovered a love of books at an early age. She worked for Northamptonshire Libraries for many years, while teaching herself the craft of writing. She is the author of the worldwide bestselling Magic Kitten, Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies, Magic Bunny series for age 5-9 years. She also writes for children and adults under various pen names. A lover of English Folklore, her books often contain elements of the otherworld and the darkness within the everyday. Her books have been translated into around 20 languages. We Other is her first book for Young Adults.
 Giveaway - Win a signed copy of We Other and a personal letter (open internationally)
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
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