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Terry Spear – Research in Writing—How Do You Make Werewolves Real?

Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatt here.

Today we have a special guest blogger  – Terry Spear.Terry is an award-winning author of urban fantasy and medieval historical romantic suspense. Her novel, Heart of the Wolf, was named in Publishers Weekly’s BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR, NOR Reader Choice for BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE.

And she’s also a USA Today bestselling author courtesy of A SEAL IN WOLF’S CLOTHING. Congratulations, Terry!

Let’s hear what Terry has to say:

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How Do You Make Werewolves Real?  

Or anything real, fantastical, imaginary, or real life real for that matter?

You must create the world that feels real. Then it needs to be populated with people, or other creatures, and they must seem real. So how can we do that with research?

Even if we’re writing about a real place, how will anyone “know” it unless we do research? The climate, the demographics, the buildings, the plant life.

When I wrote Ghostly Liaisons, a YA paranormal tale set in Florida, I lived in the house the heroine lives in as a teen. I explored the rattle snake-infested and alligator-filled swamp and jungle-like forest across the street. I swam in the water moccasin-infested canal until I knew better. I climbed the sand dunes out back of the canal. But even though I “knew” the place, I did research. I’d lived there as a teen and didn’t remember all the kinds of plants that existed in the jungle. I researched about ghost sightings in the vicinity, and about pirates and their pirating path in the area. Research then made the story more real, even though both teens have psychic abilities.

The same with when I wrote Seduced by the Wolf. I had lived in Oregon, but when I wrote the story, I hadn’t remembered how cold the lakes still were late into the year. Frozen in some areas! So I had to revise my idea based on that. One of the places my hero and heroine in Heart of the Wolf end up is at Wolf Mountain in Oregon. I actually printed out topographic maps to study the elevation of the terrain, where water was located, the vegetation, and the chances of sighting a bear in the area. I also used Google Earth to determine the layout of the wolf’s pen at the zoo in Seduced by the Wolf. I used the same zoo in Heart of the Wolf, but it had been renovated significantly since then.

I also researched how frequently wolves are spotted in Oregon. When I wrote Destiny of the Wolf, I learned that deer were destroying the forests, and wolves were needed to keep the impact down. That the new growth was beginning to make a slow come back. I love doing research because it can add realism and details to the stories to make them richer.

When I wrote Dreaming of the Wolf, I had the problem of the heroine turning wolf at a motel. Would a guest be allowed to have a wolf in a room, even if the hotel allowed dogs? What are the laws concerning wolf ownership? Also, I researched the qualifications of bounty hunters and read up on what bounty hunters have done while doing their jobs.

In Wolf Fever, I researched whether a wolf’s saliva would be different than a dog’s. I’ve researched werewolf lore also, and real werewolf trials and talked about them in some of my books. I also researched about passing viruses from one species to another, from humans to pets.

So wolves and werewolves are now real. What about places? They can be, or they can be made up. Silver Town, Colorado is run by a wolf pack. It’s not a real place. It’s based on Telluride, and some other old Colorado silver mining towns, and just a werewolfish kind of place.

In To Tempt the Wolf and A SEAL in Wolf’s Clothing, I researched different areas along the Oregon coast, where I visited a number of times when I lived in Tigard, Oregon and made up the cabin resort that Meara and Hunter Greymere inherited. But Finn’s home was a real house offered for sale on the coast, and I used the description of the forest, beach, patio, barbecue, vegetation, security system, and the interior of the home, only I changed the color scheme to make more of an impact and to have a deeper meaning for the hero.

In Seduced by the Wolf, I did the same thing, found a home, country ranch in Oregon, that was offered for sale, and it became my pack’s digs. There were several out buildings including a couple of extra homes for pack members, a bigger building like a barracks for bachelor males, and timber, cattle, a river, everything a pack could want. It even talked about other animals that often grazed in the area, great for hunting! The place was real, and it was fun turning it into a home for fantastical creatures!

Looking at pictures of people can help to give ideas for the story characters also. In the popular YA fae series, The Winged Fae came into being because of the whimsical picture of a winged fae drawing graffiti on a wall. She seemed perfect for the role of a mischievous fae.  I’m just starting to work on Dragon Fae—my daughter found her picture. She’s Goth looking, eyeing something in a treasure box, dragons love to hoard treasure, so it’s the start of a new character and book.

Of course, research is necessary for historical pieces also. In A Ghost of a Chance at Love, I emailed the Stagecoach Inn staff in Salado to learn if the hotel had a bathroom back in 1870. But they didn’t! Everyone had to use an outhouse. Ewww…

I visited Scotland and have used some of the research I’ve learned in my stories also in Winning the Highlander’s Heart and my other Highland stories.

If I get stuck on my story, I often will do some research. And often will come up with a new angle I had never thought of before!

Let research make your stories real!

Terry Spear

“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality.”

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Spear has written a dozen paranormal romance novels and two medieval Highland historical romances. An award-winning author, Terry’s Heart of the Wolf  was named a Publishers Weekly’s Best Book of the Year in 2008. A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry Spear is a librarian by day and spends every spare moment writing paranormal romance as well as historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas, where she is working on new paranormal romances! For more information, please visit http://www.terryspear.com/.

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Thank you so much Terry!

Well, Scribes fans. Your turn – how do you use research to make your stories come alive. Or if you have a question about Terry’s books – ask away!

Take in the Local Flavor

Hi – J here.  Authenticity is important in books, whether they are set in reality or some made up world.  If your world is made up, you can imagine the authenticity, but you still have to include those details for the reader.  If your book is set in an actual place, do what I do: plan vacations to those places.  Or conversely, set your books in places you have visited.

When you are away from home, be sure to take special notice of the local flavors and differences.  For example, when I decided to set my first novel in Philadelphia, my husband and I actually took the train (as did my characters) to Philly.  Many details of our trip found their way into the book, which made it a better story.

I just concluded a family vacation in Nashville, Tennessee.  I found lots of interesting things that were different from my Connecticut home.  Some things may not be Nashville things, but rather other interesting details (all of the faucets in the ritzy home where we are staying turn backwards – what I naturally think of as “off” was “on” there.)  Others are absolute – the rock that lines the side of the highways isn’t the granite I’m used to at home, but some kind of sedimentary bedrock thing.  I must investigate to find out what it is so that I can drop it in a future novel set in the area.  The food so far has been um…Wonderful!  I’ve had biscuits with white gravy (who ever heard of white gravy?), waffles with strawberry marshmallows in it, and fabulous flautas.  We ate at Jack’s BBQ which we found by following our noses for two blocks.

JK Rowling might do this best.  The Harry Potter books are full of fun interesting details that make the stories great but aren’t actually required to tell the story.  She could have gotten by without inventing a slang term for non-magical people, but I think the world would be poorer without the term, “Muggle”.  Don’t you?  PS: If you haven’t heard, she’s got a new announcement coming out next week.  Check out Pottermore for the count down.

Scribes’ Secret Unlocked: your stories can be richer when you include a few interesting details that may not actually move the story along.  It’s OK to do this – even though you hear time and time again, “If it doesn’t advance your story, cut it out.”  You can be sure that somebody in a future novel of mine will be scalded by backward-turning faucets.