Saturday, August 13, 2011

Taking a Bite out of Research with Gerry Bartlett!

Taking a Bite out of Research
Post by Gerry Bartlett

I write contemporary paranormal romance novels. Vampire stories. You’d think that wouldn’t take a lot of research and you’d be right. I set most of my books in Austin, Texas, a city that I’m very familiar with from my college days. I also visit there several times a year to see family so I can be sure my facts are right about my setting. This kind of research is easy and painless. For the next book in my series, I decided my heroine, Glory St. Clair, needed to go to Scotland to follow her longtime lover, highlander Jeremiah Campbell to his castle. I have friends who live part of the year in northern England who had invited me to visit. So I decided that this was a good excuse for a road trip. I found Castle Campbell on Google and we made a plan.

Now in previous books I had already layered in my own idea of how the castle would be. My work in progress is number nine in my Real Vampires series. I had imagined a castle in the Highlands, fairly remote but one that had been modernized over the centuries. I was prepared to visit the area just to soak up the atmosphere. I was happy to find a website for the castle and to see that I could actually take a tour. Hmm. It was part of the National Trust. Okay, this would really give me a feel for my hero’s home. My hosts arranged a nice driving trip which included Edinburgh and several castles in the Highlands. I couldn’t wait.

The Campbell castle is in Dollar, a small village near Edinburgh. We drove up a small and winding path, not really a road, and parked. After an exhausting hike, we finally got to the actual doors of the place. From the car park, the castle was impressive, perfect for my story. Up close? Not so much. There was hardly a roof left anywhere and a scaffold was against one outside wall—proof that some restoration was going on. The castle was clearly not habitable. I paid the fee to wander the rooms and climb the steep stairs of the tower. It wasn’t a big space and I had to really use my imagination to figure out where the large family and servants I’d given my hero would have lived. By the time I staggered outside again, I’d come to a decision—this castle wasn’t going to cut it as is.

Seems reality and my fantasy just didn’t match. Well, that’s okay. After all, I write fiction. I can use what we call “poetic license” and make the castle into anything I want it to be. I had gleaned from the Internet that the castle had once been called “the castle of gloom.” I loved that phrase and could see that the towering cliffs on either side of the valley were the castle nestled were the reason for the nickname. Definitely good for atmosphere. My vamps only come out at night. So maybe I could invent a luxurious and intricate underground labyrinth where they lived and slept during the day, a place that the mortals who lived in nearby Dollar were unaware of. My imagination wasn’t going to let
me down.

This kind of research is a once in a lifetime thing. I certainly couldn’t afford to jaunt off to Scotland and England again just to add some realism to a book. And I really don’t need to. Google Earth is a goldmine when it comes to taking you right to the heart of a place and showing you what a street and town looks like. I can find thousands of pictures of almost anywhere on many websites. If I hadn’t had friends who knew the area and offered to drive me there, I probably wouldn’t have attempted this trip.

But I’m glad I had the opportunity. I loved Scotland and escaping the Texas heat in August was a bonus. Now I have to get down to business and record my impressions and put them into my heroine’s point of view. Did I roam around the castle grounds after dark? Are you kidding? I could barely walk without tripping in the daylight. The paths were steep and treacherous enough when I could see.

I’d love to hear from readers who have found great settings for a vampire novel. Any ideas? The spookier the better. If you live near a place that would make a good spot for a future Real Vampires book, let me know. One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of REAL VAMPIRES DON’T WEAR SIZE SIX and a twenty dollar gift card to the bookseller of their choice. Come on, share. GIVEAWAY CLOSED

About the book:
After Glory St. Clair kicked out the demon that had set up shop in her body, she had a serious fallout with longtime lover Jeremy Blade. But before Glory can win him back, she has some issues of the hellish variety to deal with.

When Lucifer himself offers Glory the ultimate temptation-work for the devil and he'll make her a size six-the curvy vampire's not sure if she can resist. But what Glory does know is that somehow, she's going to get back the man she loves and show everyone that real vampires always have more to love.
Find Gerry online:

Giveaway Winner!
Entry #14 - Marybelle
marybelle said...
I live in a town full of Federation Style homes with endless passage ways & back rooms that no-one ever goes into. The town may seem ordinary, but I rather doubt it. 


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