Thursday, 2 January 2014

Guest Post: Alison Cherry on Research for her Novel "Red"

Today I'm very excited to have Alison Cherry on the blog discussing her new book Red! You can check out my review of the book at this link.

For the most part, people tend to associate book research with writing non-fiction or historical fiction. But even those of us writing contemporary fiction have to do a surprising amount of research to make our stories authentic and believable! Though we all live in the contemporary world and know how the rules work, even the smallest throw-away lines sometimes take some serious sleuthing. I’ve learned how to sail and pick locks for manuscripts, researched Javanese marriage practices, and investigated whether macaws can sing Christmas carols. (They can, in case you were curious!)

Here are the top ten unexpected things I needed to research in order to write RED:

10) The length of an average calculus textbook. After I looked this up on Amazon, the website spent several weeks recommending math books to me. ::shudder::

9) The names of tap-dance moves. I’ve taken a beginner’s tap class, but my main character, Felicity, has been tapping for fourteen years, so my simplistic knowledge was not going to cut it. I figured it would be hard to take my book seriously if I wrote, “And then she did that thing where she jumped up in the air and sort of kicked her feet forward and backward while scraping the floor with her tap shoes.” (Those are called “scissor wings,” apparently!)

8) Convenience store chains in Iowa. I grew up in Illinois, which is just next door, but the names of the stores where we buy our sweet and salty snacks are completely different!

7) Topstick fashion tape. I knew pageant girls used some mysterious substance to secure their swimsuits to their skin before going out on stage, but I had no idea what. Now I know!

6) Swim meets. Felicity’s best friend Ivy is a swimmer, but I didn’t know the first thing about swim meets, including what time of day they took place. Fortunately, my friend’s little sister taught me all about flip-turns and proper swimming warmups.

5) Scottish highland dancing costumes. One of the girls in the Miss Scarlet pageant does Scottish highland dancing as her talent, and I didn’t want to disrespect her heritage by putting her in the wrong clothes!

4) The Museum of Bad Art. Felicity’s art-school-bound friend, Jonathan, tells her about a museum that focuses exclusively on terrible art. I’d heard a rumor that such a thing existed, but I wasn’t totally sure it was real. Much to my delight, it is!

3) Where one can rent 1920s-style streetlamps. When you put your main character in charge of prom decorations, these things tend to crop up. Turns out you can get prop streetlamps at theatrical supply companies!

2) Hair-dyeing procedures. Unlike Felicity, I am a natural redhead, so I’ve never dyed my hair! A friend who does hers every couple of months walked me through the whole process. I was most fascinated to learn that smearing Vaseline along your hairline beforehand prevents runaway drips from dyeing your skin.

and of course…

1) Beauty pageants! It will surprise no one to learn that I did not spend my high school years participating in pageants. Instead, I attended the Miss Brooklyn Outstanding Teen Pageant in 2010 and scribbled down endless pages of notes as I watched the girls walk, pose, dance, answer interview questions, and in one case, recite truly bizarre original poetry. I also watched hours of YouTube videos about perfect pageant posture and foot position. It was fascinating, and I was amazed by how much pain, hard work, and attention to detail goes into being a pageant girl!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read up on soccer drills and figure out how much taxidermy bears weigh. (If you think I’m kidding, just wait for my future books…)

Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alison_Cherry 
Quercus Kids on Twitter:  @quercuskids

 Red by Alison Cherry, £6.99, 2nd January, Quercus Books.
Buy: Amazon|Hive

1 comment:

  1. What a great post ! I have been hearing a lot about Red, seems like most people are enjoying. I am gonna have to add it to my 2014 tbr pile :)


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