Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Writer's Wedsnesday: Research, Reading and Real Life

Presents Extra Author Natalie Anderson explains how real life can impact books

Often when writing category romance we touch on issues and experiences common to many people. It is very important to me to research properly and I try to have a believable, authentic reaction from my characters to the situations I put them in (given their own personal histories).
The kinds of situations can really vary and you can be sure if you get something wrong, a reader will let you know! The last thing I want to happen is have a reader ‘pulled out’ of a story by something that they know not to be accurate.
So I’ve had characters with a heart condition, who’ve miscarried, who’ve suffered terrible bereavement (so many sad things!). I’ve always taken extra care in detailing medical things – not all absolutely tragic though – for example where drummers get calluses on their hands, or perhaps the more unusual ways in which contraception can fail. And of course there’s research to be done about career, education and setting – you want the Eiffel Tower to be in Paris, not Rome (unless you’re writing some kind of sci-fi or futuristic fantasy).
You really want to make sure you have your facts right and you do try to have everything accurate.
But sometimes, even with the best will and effort in the world, things can happen between writing the story and the book actually hitting the shelves that can really impact on the accuracy of an element within a story.
Back in 2010 I began working on a duo – two linked stories. These two stories were set in Christchurch, New Zealand (my home town) and then in September of 2010 there was a magnitude 7.1 size earthquake. Incredibly no one was killed but many buildings were damaged. Then, in February 22 2011 there was a 6.3. In that one we lost 185 people. We lost hundreds of buildings – whole suburbs have been abandoned. It was devastating. At the time, I’d completed the first story and it was through to the copy editor. I was drafting the second. So, the ‘fairy-light lanes’ that I had the couple in the first book strolling through, no longer existed. Our central city was decimated (and most of it is still cordoned off from public access). Of course, the rugby stadium and team that featured in both books were completely fictional – a good thing as our real stadium is condemned.
In the first book, I was able to put a few sentences into in the very final copy editing stage that just briefly mentioned the quakes. The second book I put a little more reference in. But it was eight or so months off publication – who knew what the city was going to be like by then? I really hoped there’d be no more quakes, I never imagined we’d have been through over 10,000 quakes the year later, or that we’d have had almost 1000 buildings demolished. But all you can do is your best and one thing about the short category romance is that the focus of the book is on the developing relationship between the two characters. You don’t really have loads of word space you can devote to descriptions of setting. So I put in what I could and focused on the characters and very much how they were reacting .
I didn’t have Roxie lose her home because of the earthquake, but I did have it come under threat from something else and how she reacted to that? I was seeing it in so many different ways, every day.
What we’re looking for ultimately I guess, in the wonderful escape that can be romantic fiction, is emotional truths – in the relationships, actions and reactions of our characters. So while the research that we do adds to our ability to convey that, ultimately it is the characters themselves who we must believe in. Their actions are everything.
And with that in mind, I’d like to leave you with the dedication from the second book in this duo – FIRST TIME LUCKY? The people to whom I wrote this dedication showed their great character to the world at our time of need:
For the University of Canterbury’s Student Volunteer Army – thanks for showing, in the most fantastic way, that the brightest lights on Christchurch’s horizon not only have brains and beauty, but also the most tremendous hearts. You’ve been such heroes, and you’ve proved how positive our city’s future will be.

First Time Lucky? was out in the UK in January and is coming out as a Harlequin Presents Extra in May 2012.

Forced to grow up too quickly, Roxie skipped too many all-important “firsts”. Now, armed with a six-point checklist, she’s ready to get going – staring with the big one – losing her “V” plates! A hunky doctor, Gabe Hollingworth, has moved in next door. He’s a one-night only pro – and smoking-hot! Perhaps he could help her out...?
Only, Gabe wants to be more than just another tick on her “to-try” list! He sets Roxie a challenge he’s sure she can’t accept: walking away from their insane chemistry...

USA TODAY bestseller Natalie Anderson writes fun, frisky, feels-good contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon and Entangled. With twenty books published, she’s also been a Romantic Times Award nominee & a finalist for the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year). She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband, four children and what feels like a million ducks.
Find out more at her website
On Twitter @authornataliea
On Facebook at


  1. Hi Natalie. What a fantastic dedication. I think you and every.single.citizen down there is just! Words cant express what I think of the Cantabrians and the strength you all have. Thinking about the everlasting ripples the earthquake has caused makes me tear up. I really hope the earth stops shaking for you and that in the future your beautiful city once again thrives. Oh and I'll even *quietly* wish the Crusaders luck in the SuperXV this year!

  2. Oh thanks Tash - and LOL about the Crusaders!!!! But yes, I get teary too when i see how many just 'normal' people did extraordinary things - so inspirational!!!

  3. LOL. Losing her "V" plates. That is just all kinds of awesome!!!

    Wonderful dedication, Natalie! Can't wait to read this one!!

  4. Hi there, this is great site, I stumbled today on one more that I'd like to share with you. It is similar and well explained all about Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy