Thursday, October 30, 2014

When did research become fun?

A tad late today introducing my Wednesday guest on Thursday--thanks to the charming Radine Nehring for understanding. Radine is the author the "To Die For" mystery series, with the latest being A Fair to Die For. She tells us why she chose the Ozarks and how she picks specific sites to set her mysteries--there's an element of spiritual connection in her selection process. Take it away, Radine!

Oh, yikes, do I remember!

When I was doing research for college and university themes and theses, research could be both tedious and frantic--the skimming of material, making of notes, (this was in the days before Internet) and then the jump to the next book on the stack, hoping to find applicable words of wisdom to be quoted or incorporated.  How I well I remember the process, and how flown are the words and even most of the topics they were applied to.

But now . . . ?

I fell into choosing and doing research at some of Arkansas's amazing locations and events in preparation for novels because of two accidents. 

Accident 1. I fell in love with the magic of the Arkansas Ozarks on a weekend camping trip in 1978.

Accident 2. The choice, in 2001, of Ozark Folk Center State Park as a setting for the second novel in
my "To Die For" mystery series. Husband John and I knew the place well. We had spent delightful long weekends in the park and the surrounding National Forest. I needed a setting for the second novel in my series. Folk Center?  Maybe. Plot ideas began bubbling. So, why not choose a real place, real events, characters modeled after the real people we knew, and add the salt and pepper of a plot true to the location that could be real?

That's what I did. It worked. The Folk Center embraced the novel, Music to Die For, and sold copies in their gift shop. The park hosted a release event and continues to invite me for talks and signing events. They now sell all of my published written work in book form in the gift shop.  (I was at an OFC gift shop signing this past weekend, in fact.)

Bingo. The choosing of sites for my series would fit a pattern, taking readers to popular Arkansas tourist destinations and dumping them gently into plausible crimes taking place at each location.

Though I had known the Folk Center quite well, that wasn't true for other places where I wanted to set mystery novels. Therefore, prior to beginning writing, I needed to do extensive on site research at any chosen location to support the realism I demand for my stories.  

In my non-fiction book, Dear Earth, I wrote that something about the Ozarks caught me, heart and soul, and created a sense of home. It still seems to me as if simply standing on Ozarks soil and rock creates a magic bond that comes into me through the soles of my feet, and I fall in love, once more, with a place.

That sort of thing must happen at each book location I use, or no book is set there. I simply stay long enough to absorb the atmosphere, and so much else. It's like magic. When I visit potential story locations and the magic doesn't happen, I move on to the next place.

Pooh-pooh this if you want, but it's the best way I can describe what happens when I choose an adventure site for Carrie McCrite, Henry King, and their families and friends.

If you join me in one book or another of this on-going adventure, you can write it off as a free vacation for the price of a book!

Places covered after Ozark Folk Center State Park:  Hot Springs National Park; Eureka Springs, AR and the 1886 Crescent Hotel; Buffalo National River; Historic Van Buren, AR and its Civil War history, plus a ride on the real Arkansas and Missouri Passenger Excursion Train; the War Eagle area of Arkansas including Hobbs State Park, War Eagle Mill, and the enormous War Eagle Craft Fair.  And, more to come!  Stay tuned.

Don't forget, I have spent days enjoying each site covered. I can guarantee a good time there.

Radine Trees Nehring, 2011 Inductee: Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame;
Sharing the magic of the Arkansas Ozarks in "To Die For" novels
including  A Fair to Die For from Oak Tree Press.



Di Eats the Elephant said...

I feel in love with Carrie and Henry and Radine back when I lived in Ohio. I'd been reading Stephen Hunter's Bob Swagger snippet books before that and had gotten an itch to know more about Arkansas. I even used to make Henry's recipe for microwave chocolate cake in a cup. Now I'm living in Oklahoma, I'm trying to get some backpacking and camping trips over there so i can experience that. I love hearing that is how Radine's series stayed and continues to grow. I may just decide to visit each site in order now!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I love your books, Radine, and the places where they are set. So much fun to read.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Hmmmm, what does elephant taste like? Isn't it an endangered species, though? ;-) Probably someone will say "tastes like chicken" since that's what I am told about every meat I am not familiar with--from raccoon to rattlesnake. Can't affirm the taste in either of those cases, however. By the way, Arkansas is a terrific place to go camping. Read "A River to Die For" for camping information at Buffalo National River. Story participants camp there, at Tyler Bend. (Real place, real campground.)