THE OFFERING required a lot of research into an experience most women take for granted: childbirth. Though I have two children, I’ve never given birth or been pregnant, so I had no idea or experience to draw from–and this in a book that centers around a woman’s pregnancy and birth experience.
The most exacting task was keeping a pregnancy calendar–and I actually had to keep TWO calendars, one for when my character assumed her child was conceived, and another for when her child was actually conceived. Each calendar had the weeks of the pregnancy numbered, and I jotted down things she’d be experiencing that week: “baby moves,” and “baby is the size of a cantaloupe” and “morning sickness generally abates”, etc. Lots of notes, lots of confusion. To make it worse, I changed the story date (the year in which the story takes place) a couple of times, which meant I was continually creating new, fully detailed calendars. That aspect of the story drove me a little crazy.
But the rest of the research was fairly straightforward. I had already checked the premise of the novel out with a doctor friend, and I had driven over to Tampa to research a Cuban grocery, where many of my scenes took place. I read a book on surrogacy written by a surrogate mother, plus I read tons of articles on surrogates, military wives as surrogates, and the like. I even found the Tampa townhouse my characters rented, and had pictures of it on my desk. I could have given you to their house, if you’d had a yen to go . . .
I had done a lot of reading about in vitro fertilization for another book I worked on, so I refreshed that research to make sure it was still accurate. And the rest I drew from my imagination, emotion, and intellect.
I’m one of those writers who relies far more on nonfiction than fiction in my novels–and if a technique or premise couldn’t happen in real life, I probably won’t write about it. (Or, as in THE IMMORTAL, I might ask you to accept a far-out premise and make everything else factual.) I suppose that’s because I love to learn, and the more I can learn about a topic, the more I enjoy it.
And that’s probably why I don’t write fantasy. 🙂
To each their own!