Putting on My Research Hat

© 2017 Cara Putman

Several years ago when my writing bud Nicole O’Dell asked me if I wanted to be part of a novella collection with her, my initial reaction was “of course!” Nicole is so prolific and accomplished I couldn’t imagine not writing with her. And if it also meant I could help Valerie Comer, a debut author, get her first contract, then my enthusiasm for the project only went up.

Then they told me the topic for Rainbow’s End.

Geo-caching? It sounds fun, but I’ve never tried it. Never been to the Ozarks either. Still, I wanted to be part, so I put on my research hat.

Here are some tips to help you when you find yourself in a similar position.

1) If you can’t go to the location, talk to people who have been where your book is set. As God would have it, my sister and brother-in-law were on their way to Branson. Being the great folks they are, they detoured through Lake of the Ozarks just to let me know what the town was like. That’s how I learned about the turtle ice cream shop and the outlet mall that became pieces of my novella.

2) Hit the Internet. While it’s never the only stop for me, there is a wealth of information to discover. For example, find maps, information from chambers of commerce, etc. online. Also look up the websites of local businesses you want to reference. It’ll give you a great starting point to build on.

3) Utilize social networks. Since I’ve never done geo-caching, I asked folks on Facebook if they’d gone. I talked to a friend who enjoys the hunt with his kids. Each of the details I got gave me a better idea of what someone going geo-caching would experience. For A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, I asked for help naming businesses and got FANTASTIC ideas from online friends. For my book that releases in April, I asked for help naming a coffee shop and creating quirks for a heroine. People’s suggestions were brilliant! Others can be so creative when I’m brain dead.

4) Look for hard to find resources. When writing Shadowed by Grace, I ran across a reference to a book that one of the Monuments Men had written about his time in Florence and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the book was out of print, but Purdue University in my backyard had a copy of Art Under Fire. Because I’m faculty, I was able to borrow it for three months. It was the perfect resource to help me understand what he experienced during the war and make sure my hero was on target. It also was a free use—so don’t be afraid to try university libraries, interlibrary loans, etc. All of these can help you find that resource which will add details to make a book come to life.

By the time I finished writing Love’s Prize, one of the novellas in Rainbow’s End, I wanted to pack my bag and head to the Ozarks for some geo-caching. My prayer is that readers will feel the same way—like we’ve managed to sneak a short vacation within the pages of our stories.
Cara C. Putman, JD MBA, the award-winning author of 24 books, graduated high school at 16, college at 20, and completed her law degree at 27. FIRST for Women magazine called Shadowed by Grace “captivating” and a “novel with ‘the works.’” Cara is active at her church and a full-time lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana. You can also connect with Cara on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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