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Researching A Contemporary Novel

by Gail Gaymer Martin

A contemporary novel is set in the present, and yet I spend a great deal of time researching details of location, seasonal events, health issues, careers and more to bring reality to the novel. The last two books of the Sisters series revolves around firefighters, and I used the Interent to research the career, but knowing firsthand the details as well as mental and emotional stress isn’t answered there, so I discovered two firefighters from different states on FaceBook and they were intricate in my writing a novel based on reality. Here are tips on research for any novel.

Visit the location: I prefer to visit the location and pick up materials at the Visitor’s Center. I visit places of interest, restaurants, and learn interesting facts about the town including seasonal events. I also take photographs and notes to recall the visual and sensory elements of the area.

Town’s Library: Local events boards that list activities and events in the area. When visiting in person, check out the library and talk to the librarian. They often prove to be a great resource of town history and current information.

Chamber of Commerce: When visiting isn’t possible, I write or call the city Chamber of Commerce and request map as well as information and fliers about events, town celebrations, attractions, topography, street names, and businesses.

Email or ask people: Send out requests on social networks or ask friends questions about locations settings of places they might know, on careers, health issues, or any information.

Travel guides: Available in libraries or at AAA information is available about sites, events, business and restaurants in the area.

Internet: Use the Internet to check out city information, real estate with photographs, restaurant menus, newspaper name, flora and fauna, town details, weather in seasons, stages of the moon.

House plans and style: Use house plans and architectural magazines with blueprints and drawing of homes and rooms. I copy a house and can visual characters in realistic layout.

How To: You can find websites on how to do most anything. I’ve learned how to saddle a horse.

Telephone Calls: The telephone is my friend. I call hospitals for details on many things, stores for an item your story needs, restaurants for their decor and even car service information.

Tours: Visit museums, businesses, farms, and coal mines. Many venues offer tours. I hired a fishing boat captain to give me a tour of the Les Cheneaux Islands for a novel.

Experience It: Go on a police ride, sky diving, roller skating, looking at dinosaur bones being excavated. I experienced a hot air balloon ride.

Interview professionals: Writing suspense, I contacted a detective and learned much about him. Speak with doctors, nurses, carpenters, firefighters, race car drivers, snowmobilers and more.

The Firefighter's New FamilyMulti-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin writes romance, romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance and has 52 novels published with nearly four million books in print. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker and teaches writing across the U.S. Visit Gail at If you enjoy exciting novels, look for The Firefighter’s New Family, in stores now to the end of January.

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