Karen Brichoux

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"Draws the reader into the story and never lets go." --RT Bookclub
"Brichoux reminds the reader how powerfully the landscape of 'home' can define a person." -- High Country News
Previously Released
"An exceptional novel." --Melissa Senate, author of The Solomon Sisters Wise Up
"A coup. Warm, smart, and original." --Kirkus Reviews


Research Methods

June 30, 2004

July 2004 Newsletter from the desk of Karen Brichoux


*Article: ďResearch MethodsĒ
*What Iím Reading

*News: Actually, there isnít any! Iíve been hard at work on the revision--mailed off at last, yay!--and now Iím doing all those household tasks that were ignored (sometimes to a rather revolting end).

*Article: ďResearch MethodsĒ

[In the coming months, Iíll be going through your newsletter suggestions and picking topics at random. If you have a topic suggestion for a newsletter, feel free to email it to me (just please limit your suggestions to writing or the writing life).]

Beth asked: ďHow do you do your research?Ē

Since my books tend to be about contemporary people, and their emotions and interactions, I donít have as much research to do as, say, Tracy Chevalier. However, there are a few things I do research carefully.

Setting: Where an author sets his or her book is almost as important as choosing a location for filming a movie. I look for places with the right tone, feel, look, and smell. And that setting becomes a part of the book. If I havenít personally been to the city or state I would like to use as a setting, I look for information in a number of places. First, state tourism offices. The brochures are basically useless--no one who lives in a city or state goes to the tourist sites--but they are free and come with free maps. Second, any books or internet sites about geography, history, natural history, weather, and common plants and animals. I use these kinds of books and sites a lot, even if Iíve been to or lived in the place where I intend to set my book. Third, photographs. The internet is a great place to find photographs taken by people who live in a certain area, or by people who have posted all their vacation pictures. These pictures usually give me the ďfeelĒ of the place. Crowded? Open? Clean? Colorful? Trees? Shrubby stuff? Flat? Hilly? Finally, Iíll talk to other writers who live in or around the area.

After looking at everything, what I take away are the impressions of the place. And those impressions help me to pick the sounds, smells, and sights I want to use in my book.

Does this research work? Sometimes. Coffee and Kung Fu was set in Boston, even though Iíve never been to Boston. Out of the four people who have mentioned it to me (and who also live in Boston), two thought I had lived there, one was nicely noncommittal, and one thought I was an idiot. So itís hit and miss.

Jobs: Believe it or not, what the characters in a book choose for a career is a huge hassle. So far, Iíve stuck with jobs Iíve actually done or where I know someone I can ask. (Which probably explains why none of my characters have glamorous jobs.)

All other research tends to be little things (ďWhatís that thingie called that goes on top of that other thingie?Ē) that I can find answers to from Eyewitness Books or the internet.

Ah, the exciting life of the author!

What Iím Reading:
[A number of you suggested that I list my favorite books. I have a list of favorites on the bio page of my website, but the books I list in this section of my newsletter are books which Iíve read and enjoyed. If I donít like a book, I usually donít bother to finish it!]



And Iím just starting (and liking!) THE GRAVE MAURICE by Martha Grimes