I’m one of those authors who spends a considerable amount of time researching my books before I start to write them. I spend days in the library, buy books that I think I may be referring back to as a series goes along and interview people who work in the different professions I’m writing about. I’ve rented movies such as STAGE COACH with John Wayne to get the feel and flavor of the days and hours traveling in such close quarters and then there are the field trips. Those are my all time favorites. There are times I wish those time travels I write were truly possible because then I could travel to some of those historical periods my characters live in. But till that becomes an actuality I’ve got my present day books and some of the locations they take place in.
When I was writing my current release, WITH ALL DISPATCH, Book 2 of the Treasures Antique series, I took a day to basically live the scenes Molly and Gareth did. I started out at about the same time they start off in the book and took the road from the urban portion of my city out to the rural area. Once the city limits were behind me, with an Enya CD playing it was easy to imagine the tall blond haired, blue eyed, Gareth beside me. First stop was the Cheese Factory which has been around since the late 1800’s and they still make a fabulous cheese. Breakfast was some of their cheese on homemade rosemary bread. There is a duck pond on the grounds and some of the water fowl came to share the meal.
From there I drove over the covered bridge and out to the coast. The Pacific that day was breathtaking. The ocean can be quite hypnotic and watching the deep blue-green waves travel in and out, watching the tide changes and coastal wild life go about their business paved the wave for Gareth to talk about his past life. That would be the life he led ohhh, about 1500 years ago. Of course Molly, the love of his life, doesn’t quite believe him. Surely a man who traveled from the past wouldn’t be all that interested in by the book, sees things in black and white and lives by the rules Molly. So she thinks.
My actual goal for the day was the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. Lighthouses are their own special kind of magic. And the stories they could tell not only about the long ago sailors who relied on their guidance, but some of the modern day visitors. There is a certain romance to the towers. The on duty ranger provided some great input—with Gareth ever near the edge of my imagination providing ideas for just what he and Molly would be up to.
Instead of taking the “short way” home I chose to travel down Highway 1 and the coastal route. With its steep cliffs and winding roadway you get the sense of being in another time and place. As darkness and the evening fog settled over the coast I headed inland and stopped for dinner at the Pelican Inn, an authentic 16th century British Inn. I opted for the kind of meal Gareth would enjoy—Shepherd’s Pie with truffle for dessert.
Later on in the story, when Gareth and Molly have their “dark moment”, that moment when their relationship is going to make or break I spent another day driving up and down Highway 121 in Napa looking for the exact spot where their confrontation takes place. Six or seven passes the exact spot caught my attention. Walking around in the field, taking in the scents, noises and watching out for the occasional cow patty it was pretty easy to picture that earth shattering confrontation.
Let me say that Napa, where the WITH ALL DISPATCH takes place has something for everyone. From the quaint portions of down town to the wineries, to the unique shops you can spend a few days there and still not see everything. Fortunately my series is set there so I’ll be back enjoying all Napa County has to offer again and again. While the day trips for WITH ALL DISPATCH were just me, my netbook and tape recorder, having friends … help … with research is always a plus.
More recently one of my friends came along to do some of that helping with my research for Sapphire. This current work in progress takes place on a clipper ship in the mid-1800’s. When we heard that the Lady Washington, an exact replica of the original tall ship, was coming to down we headed down to Sausalito, California to spend the day on board sailing. The crew was fantastic and the steward, Cat, spent the better part of two hours answering questions, helping with plot points and describing life what they know of life on the high seas. (She’s lived on board for most of the past 3 years). While we cruised the way the Lady Washington and its traveling companion, the Hawaiian Chieftain had a mock battle complete with cannons. They say if you can sail San Francisco bay you can sail anywhere. The day of our sail was warm, sunny and crystal clear.
Hands on research, going where my characters are going, doing what they ultimately do in the book, is probably one of the best parts of writing. Having friends who are ready to go along on those day trips makes the trip even better.
I don’t know if you’re like me and always plan to see the sites in your local area. I know when I lived in New York I always planned to visit certain places like the Statute of Liberty but never got around to it. I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay area for years and haven’t yet made my way to Alcatraz. I’m thinking it may be time for one of my books to take place there just so I have to make the journey out to the famous island in the bay. Meanwhile, Gareth’s brother, Gehris, will be eating at Cliff house before too long and they still have pictures of the original gothic structure around. Anyone care to join Gehris and I?
Regan’s World Blog http://regantaylorsworld.blogspot.com/
Regan’s Website http://www.regantaylor.com/index.htm
Where to find With All Dispatch: Mundania Press