Tricia Goyer is an acclaimed and prolific writer, publishing hundreds of articles in national magazines while authoring more than twenty-five fiction and nonfiction books combined. Among those are 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award winners Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. She has also written books on marriage and parenting and contributed notes to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Tricia lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas.
I've written over thirty novels and for most of them, I've traveled on location for research. It takes time. It takes money, and folks may wonder if it's worth it.
It's possible to accurate novels without traveling on location, but sometimes the location forms the story.
This happened with my co-written novel Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska. When Ocieanna and I got the idea for Glacier Bay we knew we wanted to mix a historical story with a contemporary one. We had a basic idea, but we were basically researching two books, set in two time periods.
Ocieanna and I traveled to Lonesome Prairie, Montana, and to Seattle, Washington for our previous books, and we knew the benefit of on-site research. We hoped we'd find the same benefit in Glacier Bay.
If you are looking to travel for research here are some things that might help.
1. Connect before you go. In each of our trips we did some research ahead of time and found knowledgeable people to talk to. The best places to look were historical societies or museums. A phone call goes a long way. Call the local historical society and museum and set an appointment to visit. Let the person know what you're looking for. We've found wonderful people willing to help. They get excited that writers are interested in what they know. They like to share their expertise. (Just remember to take down everyone's name so you can thank them in the acknowledgements.)
2. Talk to locals. One of my favorite things to do is simply talk to the locals. Ask: “What is unique about the area? What are some of you rfavorite stories that you tell others. And who else can I talk to.
3. Don't go with a fixed schedule. Some of the best research and stories have come from unexpected interviews.
4. Have a few set questions, but allow for rabbit trails. Be a good listener.
5. Be observant. This is obvious, but don't just focus on the mountains, the houses, or the museums. Look at the bulletin boards, the grocery store shelves, and ask about the local walking trails.
6. If you've discovered wonderful, colorful locals, write them into the book. Ocieanna and I were able to do this with Glacier Bay. Both historical figures and current residents found their way into our novel. (Just make sure you ask permission!)
7. Don't be so fixed on your storyline that you don't have room to weave all the good stuff in. With each of our books, Ocieanna and I had a basic idea of the storyline, but we had plenty of room to expand and change the plot after our trips.
8. Ask for pre-readers. After your trip send thank you notes to those you interviewed. When you write, also ask if the person would be willing to read your manuscript after you're done. This is an important step. You can travel, do research and work as hard as you can to get things right, but there are always those little things that a writer misses. When the book is done our goal is to get even the locals to admit, “They got it right.”
What about you? Do you travel to do research? What are the benefit? How has your research impacted your writing?
Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska
Singer Ginny Marshall is one signature away from the recording contract of her dreams—a deal that would guarantee success for the former foster child, who still struggles to bury the memories of her painful childhood. But Ginny needs advice from the one person who will look out for her best interests—her former fiancé, Brett Miller. She travels to the remote town of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the town’s colorful characters and stunning scenery provide respite from LA’s pressures.
In Glacier Bay, Ginny discovers a box of old letters and is swept up in the love story between Clay, an early missionary to Alaska Territory, and Ellie, the woman who traveled there to be his children’s governess. When Ginny is reunited with Brett in Glacier Bay, will she discover—as Ellie did—that healing and love are sometimes found in the most unexpected places?