Today's guest, Kathleen Damp Wright, shares her stories about how doing in-person research for her novels is more fun and yields more interesting results. It also leads to more focused online research later.
Kathleen Damp Wright is the co-author, along with Lauraine Snelling, of The S.A.V.E. Squad series for middle grade readers (Dog Daze, The Great Cat Caper, Secondhand Horses, and No Ordinary Owl), and Waiting for Sparks, a Harlequin Heartwarming series title. She also enjoys her online adjunct position teaching refresher business writing. You can find her on Twitter at @Kathy_Damp and on Instagram at @KathyDamp.
While Kathleen and Lauraine knew a lot about dogs for their first book together – both adopt rescue dogs – neither of them had owned cats. When Kathleen first started researching feral cats, she learned that they are now called community cats. Important thing to know in case her readers know that!
She asked friends, former students, and Facebook friends when she needed to know who owned cats or knew someone with a miniature horse. She learned that different breeds of the same animal have different personalities, and much is said the way a cat moves its ears or whiskers or tail, or in the many sounds a horse makes.
When she went to a wild bird rescue, she saw a girl about the same age as her main character volunteering, and Kathleen watched what she did. Online research just wouldn't have the same emotional power as when you hear real people tell their stories.
A lot of times, research is about learning the vocabulary, she says. Once you know the right words, you can start digging around online. Where you've lived or vacationed can also provide research details, though Kathleen suggests waiting until the second or third draft to add the details you still need to look up. Otherwise, if you enjoy learning all these new things, you may never finish the book!