Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a well-written book? I can tell you one particular aspect.
Research. Tons and tons of research.
In Betrayal by Blood, there are a wide range of scenes and topics: sword fights, floriography, dragons, death, and snow, to name a handful. Those topics may or may not seem like much to you, but for me as a writer, those are all topics that need to be thoroughly explored and understood as much as possible.
At this point in time, I cannot even begin to guess as to how many hours I have spent researching online, reading books and talking to knowledge friends and professionals about my different topics. (and many more!)
I have picked the wise brains of several friends now for all scenes that relate to sword fighting. I am quasi familiar with Kendo — Japanese sword fighting — but the fights in this book aren’t Japanese style. So I had to send messages, re-write, send messages, re-write, rinse and repeat til I got each and every scene right. I am profoundly grateful to my patient friends who probably felt hounded by my messages, “Check it now?”
Floriography, the lovely language of flowers, which is mostly a dead language nowadays. The kingdom of Perennia is a floral kingdom, that uses flowers for messages, and golly, did I have to research that! Did you know that there are many different stances on floriography, that sometimes it’s regional, and so what one flower means in the United States may be different than in other country? I eventually had to settle on the most common of meanings and even then pick and choose for several. Maybe I’ll someday write a book on floriography just for Terrene. All the ads on my computer were flower related for at least a week!
Dragons were fun to research, as our dragons are truly dinosaurs, but with some…extra…abilities. For sake of our four year-old, we watched Magic School Bus several times, then I dove into several books that I still had from my school days. After writing down dinosaurs of interest and exhausting those books, I then got on the interwebs to further dive into the different dinosaurs– what were they known for? what did they typically eat? aggressive or passive? theories behind their behavior? I may have also bought some toy dinosaurs for my boys during that time.
As strange or creepy as it may sound, I was fascinated with death when I was researching it. I was also concerned that FBI was going to show up on my doorstep and inquire as to why I was looking up poisons, how humans die from poison, death by sword wounds, lung injuries and rate of decay. (I may have also watched an autopsy or two, just because I was curious) It was really interesting, learning how our bodies return to dust. …after several stages of decay and decomposition…
As someone who lives in a desert that’s been in a drought for over five years, I can list exactly four times that it has snowed here, in my twenty nine years of life. And only one of those times did the snow stay on the ground for longer than one hour. (five hours, to be exact) So for me to write about snow in my scene, even for the minute details that filled maybe three sentences, scattered over several chapters, I spent DAYS learning about snow. Wet snow. Dry snow. Snow that floats into snow drifts. Snow that is sticky. Snow that is cold. Snow that isn’t so cold. (that still confuses me, to be perfectly honest) Who knew that snow was more than just white precipitation?
And the funny thing about all those topics I mention here? Each of them (with the exception of dragons) get only a few lines of mention in the book. But those few lines had to be accurate. Hence countless hours of research. So next time you read a book and the details are spot-on, think about this: the author may have grown up in an environment to know that snow isn’t always wet– or they researched it.