Hello and welcome, everyone! I'm pleased to welcome YA author, Ellie James, during the launch of her blog tour for Broken Illusions, the sequel to Shattered Dreams. Let's give a warm welcome to Ellie as she talks about extreme research!
His bound wrists would prevent him from using his arms to swim, but with his hands holding onto the wood, at least he could keep himself afloat while he kicked. Fifty yards. He could do that.
He grabbed the branch, ran to the dock, and dove into the dark, brutal current.
Hmmm. Would that work? Is it possible to make your way across a swollen river wearing handcuffs? It sure seemed possible, especially for the resourceful, tough-as-nails Sandro, but I couldn’t let myself run with the scene, not until I knew. So I did what any dedicated writer would do: I brought rope to my husband and asked him to tie my wrists together. Yeah, I got a look at that, but he (quite happily I might add) obliged, and off I went to the backyard. My husband quietly followed. I found a 2x4 to play the role of the stick, then jumped into the deep end of the pool, fully clothed (couldn’t wear a swimsuit, since poor Sandro didn’t have that luxury.) Then I swam. Kind of. Holding the wood beneath my chest, I kept my head above water and kicked my way to safety, and voila! Presto! I had my answer: If I could do it, surely my fantasy guy Sandro could. Dilemma solved.
Research. Sometimes there are no shortcuts.
The Internet is a writer’s best friend. While the thought of research can send you straight back to school and that term paper you didn’t want to write, the reality is getting the facts straight is critical. (Just be careful you don’t end up on the FBI watch list. That’s happened!) We all love making stuff up, but you can’t say a heroine can free herself from being duct-taped to a chair just because you want her to. You need to know if that’s possible. That’s the challenge bestselling author Virginia Kantra faced when she decided to duct-tape herself to her office chair to make sure she really could free herself. Um…she couldn’t. And it wasn’t even noon yet, DH was at work, the kids at school, the phone across the room. So there she sat, in her office, bound to her chair as minutes dragged into hours. Finally her teenage son came home, followed her voice to her office, and walked in on something he’d never imagined walking in on! I would have loved to have seen the look on his face! Fortunately, being a writer’s son, he immediately deduced that he hadn’t walked in on a home invasion, but rather, his mom doing what all good writers do. Researching.
But sometimes research means leaving the house. How else do you find out if its possible to escape while handcuffed to a police cruiser? When romance author Diana Duncan found herself in line at Starbucks behind a uniformed cop, she immediately seized the opportunity to solve a key plot problem. Thrilled, Diana struck up a dialog with the cop and soon found herself out in the parking lot being handcuffed to his car, while her horrified teenage daughter looked on.
For my current YA series, the Midnight Dragonfly books, there’s not one New Orleans locale that I haven’t explored myself, including a late night sprint from Bourbon Street to the levee, to see how fast you could feasibly get from one place to the others. I’ve sat with the psychics and had my palm read, and I’ve climbed the fences and hidden behind trees and…um….sorta gone somewhere no one wasn’t supposed to go. I can’t say where, but the second I learned about This Certain Place, abandoned since Hurricane Katrina, I knew it was perfect for a crucial dramatic sequence. And despite the abundance of YouTube videos about This Certain Place, I knew I had to make a visit myself. I needed to see the swamp encroaching upon the parking lot and the chain link fence, the abandoned buildings and…well, I can’t say what else I needed to see, except whether it was true that certain objects were still there after over five years of abandonment. I needed to breathe the air and smell the decay. I needed to see the graffiti and feel the despair.
And I did.
And it was amazing.
I was scared to death, but that’s okay. Knowing that, how frightening it was to be there, how many places there were to hide, the realization that there were probably others there, hiding--watching--only enabled me to add that much more authenticity to the scenes.
And that’s what it’s all about. Authenticity.
I do have to add that not all research involves risking your life (or breaking the law). When I first started writing Shattered Dreams, I researched the most popular brands of jeans among teenage girls, and found myself in a Buckle store to see for myself. The next thing you know, I’ve been fitted for my own awesome pair!!
Research definitely has its perks, the more extreme the better.
About the Midnight Dragonfly Series
Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: a girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others--the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever--whisper to her soul.
They come without warning. They come without detail.
But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.
Find out how in Broken Illusions (St. Martin’s Press), available May 8, 2012.
About Ellie James
Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary average wife and mom of two little kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.
What they don't know is that more often than, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.
Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.
You can follow Ellie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309
Her next book, BROKEN ILLUSIONS, will be available from Griffin Teen May 8, 2012.