Up a Tree About Research for Your Book?
Updated: Aug 10, 2019
When I set out to write my first novel the research started with the idea for the book. After moving to Nevada, my husband retired from work and we decided to spend as much time as I could take away from my business to explore the West that we had both fallen in love with on our first trip out west thirty years prior to our move.
I’ve always been fascinated by trees from the time I spent climbing them as a kid to my admiration of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem about trees. When I read about the ancient Bristlecone pine trees, I knew I had to see them. We tried unsuccessfully to hike to see them at Nevada’s only National Park, Great Basin National Park near Ely, NV. Unfortunately, even though it was the end of May, we couldn’t reach them due to about twelve feet of snow.
However, I had heard that the oldest and the largest of the Bristlecones both stood in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest near Bishop, CA. So off we went. By that time, my husband’s Parkinson’s was getting worse and he couldn’t do the walk to see Methuselah, the tree that was believed to be the oldest. But we were able to drive a thirty-mile dirt road to the Patriarch Grove. This is my late husband with the Patriarch, the largest of the trees known to exist.
On the way up to the grove, I told my husband I had to get and touch one, and when I got back into the car, I was breathless. As I told him, it was like touching God. And so, the idea for the book was born, my original title was actually, Touching God. But I later changed the title, and of course, being a feminist, I renamed the tree and the book, The Matriarch. Get the book at https://amzn.to/2RqYtDH
As the book evolved, it seemed to take its own life, and I had more research to do. There was a strong Native American influence coming through and I had to do a bit of research on the Paiute tribe, the Pequots, and the Tlingit. That was fun because it was a field that interested me.
Drawing on my nonprofit experience working with the Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action and Center Link, serving the LGBT population helped in the aspects of the book that dealt with these issues. And there was also a lot of reference to the gaming industry (that’s gambling, for those of you not familiar with Las Vegas lingo) so that was fun to research since I am not a stranger to slot machines and video poker. There was also a strong environmental theme in the book so my work with environmental organizations, like the Delaware Riverkeeper Network helped in that regard. And, to add another twist to the book, the final theme was the Catholic Church and the struggle between conservative and progressive Catholics. Well guess what, I was able to write off part of my trip to Rome for that research! And my involvement with the Women’s Ordination Conference helped here too.
So, if you write about something you know, are involved with, and are passionate about, research can be fun and rewarding. Best of all, you’ll be learning while you’re writing.