Friday, December 6, 2013

The Joys Of Research

Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, four dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read. Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

As an author, one of the many things I love about creating a new book is doing the research. Plus it gives me an excuse to buy a pretty new notebook or folder in which to keep all my research scribbles and ideas.

One of the first things I get excited about investigating for a book is a potential location and setting. So far my novels have all been based in areas I have visited and fallen in love with – the Lake District, North Yorkshire, Peak District and the Scottish Highlands. Though the areas are real, the actual towns and villages mentioned in the books are fictitious but based on actual places so, with the help of photos from my visits, the internet, tourist guide books and TV programmes, I have great fun creating and naming my locations.

Next up are the characters. I have on my shelf two brilliant research books about zodiac signs which were written specifically as guides for writers to use when it comes to character development. I adore these books. I always have some ideas in mind for the type of person a character will be and what their main issues are but then I use the books to see what star signs fit the bill and to flesh out their personalities, strengths and weakness, motivations, mannerisms and much more.

The next thing to be investigated is the theme of the book. One of my novels, The Love Programme, was set on a private country estate in Scotland so I dug out photos from when I visited just such an estate a few years back; I watched lots of episodes of the wonderful BBC TV programme Monarch of the Glen and learnt all about Lairds and the Gaelic language. How Do You Spell Love? - one of my other books - had a magical element to it with the character Summer being a modern white witch, practising her craft to help others.

In the book Summer uses herbs, crystals, essential oils and folklore to create her spells in a shed on her allotments. As I’m a qualified (but no longer practicing) therapist in crystal healing, herbalism and clinical aromatherapy I had a knowledge of these disciplines in wellbeing terms but not when it came to magic, so I hit the internet and books again and had a thoroughly enjoyable time inventing combinations of stones, oils and plants for, amongst other things, lunar love spells!

Since that book I have plotted and written others with themes as varied as hotel management in Norfolk to extreme sports activities in the Peak District - before you ask, no I wasn’t tempted to try climbing or abseiling, I don’t have a good head for heights… well, that’s my excuse anyway.

For another work in progress a character had to investigate her family history to try to solve a mystery about some letters she was sent – the perfect excuse I thought to investigate my own family history. I’d long fancied the idea of doing a spot of family history research and I found it fascinating and hugely enjoyable. I had to somewhat reluctantly admit defeat though on one aspect of my husband’s family tree, when even sending off for a full and original birth certificate for his great grandfather didn’t reveal who the man in questions father was, as those particular details had been left blank– that one will forever remain a mystery!

At this point I feel it is my duty to issue a warning – if you’re tempted to give researching your family history a go then beware because it is seriously addictive! I found myself saying ‘just ten more minutes’ on the family history website on many an occasion, sometimes when it was close to midnight, and my husband ended up having to turn the computer off otherwise I might have been there all night…

Special Offer:
If you fancy learning about lunar love spells and why Summer needed to use one for herself, then my book How Do You Spell Love? will be on ebook sale between Dec 7th and Dec 14th and you can grab a copy for just 77p on Amazon:  

Zanna has written two published novels, The Love Programme (Astraea Press) and How Do You Spell Love? (Crooked Cat Publishing) and both were published in early 2013. 
Her next book If You Only Knew is being released on Feb 7th 2014. 

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1 comment:

SherryGLoag said...

Fascinating post, thank you. but... please will you name the 2 zodiac books for writers?