I love research. It gets me out in the field and I meet some of the most remarkable people in those professions. Research, to me, is more fun than writing the book! I get to travel, learn something new and look at what I’m being educated about and how it might fit into a brewing plot in my head.
Every writer, in my opinion, should write what she or he knows. No matter how much your experience, you’re going to run out of books based upon your life knowledge. And then, moving to topics that make you salivate, is the next step.
For example, using DANGEROUS PREY, my HQN that is coming out in December, 2008, will give you some helpful information. It is a book where the hero is a raptor rehabilitator.
I can tell you that I’m not an expert on raptors or how to help them when they get injured. Sometimes kismet occurs and a writer gets lucky. I’m a member of the Flagstaff, Arizona Arboretum . I was up there about two years ago to do some photographing of their flowers.
Imagine my shock and surprise when I saw this gorgeous blond haired woman with a hawk on her glove walk by! Stunned, I followed her. That woman was Susan Hamilton who is the owner of High Country Raptors. She is licensed in the state of Arizona to care for injured or sick raptors (hawks, owls and falcons). She was putting on an educational program for those visiting the Arboretum. Mesmerized, I went over there and simply sat and listened. The birds she had were incredible! And she had plenty of helpers.
Susan gave a wonderful, enthusiastic talk about raptors and why we should never kill them. They are necessary for the balance in our environment. They eat mice, rats and other vermin which we don’t want around or in our homes. They do a lot of good. As I watched her and her helpers with all these raptors, a book popped into my mind and DANGEROUS PREY was hatched!
It took two years of driving up to Flag to be with Susan to learn how she cared for her raptors, the mews, the feeding, what they ate, their feeding schedule and a hundred other things that were necessary to give these birds a good, stable life. I always looked forward to going up there and have gotten to hold some of the birds on a gauntlet. It was a thrill.
One raptor in particular stood out. That was Luna. She is a European Eagle-Owl and eventually became the feathered heroine in my book. This female is seven pounds with a five foot wingspan. She’s the largest owl in Europe and is larger than our own Great Horned Owl. I’ve gotten to work with her a lot and I fell in love with her gentle growling sounds she’d utter when you hold her on the glove.
Another thing I had Susan do was read my rough draft manuscript when I was done. I wanted her to spot any inconsistencies or mistakes I’d made long before the book went to press. This is another area that’s helpful to a writer is having an expert’s eyes on the information. That way, I don’t get letters from upset readers who have spotted an error.
On my web site, http://www.lindsaymckenna.com/, on the front page with the cover of DANGEROUS PREY are four URL addresses. These go to my blog. While doing the research on the raptors, I took plenty of photos. If you go over there you’ll meet Susan and her birds.
No author wants mistakes in her book. If you are doing research, be sure to have the expert read your manuscript for errors. It’s a helpful process. I can say that Susan Hamilton became my friend over the years that we conspired together on my book. This is one of the many wonderful things that happens during research work. Even better, I have an understanding of the raptors that I love so much. And I also have a great admiration and respect for the 2,500 raptor rehabilitators here in the USA. They give up untold hours of time, their own money, to ensure these raptors can be returned to their wild life once more. Truly, they are heroes and heroines in my eyes.