Doing on-site research for a book offers many different challenges. When I was doing research for The Traitor’s Wife, my second novel, I travelled to Wales and walked for miles through the Mt. Snowdon National Park, getting blisters on my feet, and chapped skin on my face from the raw wind and rain. My mother came with me as my “research assistant” and was very helpful in pointing out all of the ancient pubs, suggesting quite compellingly that they might prove instructive in our exploration of 17th century pastoral life. We visited quite a few of those venerable establishments the week we were in Wales and gained a new, if slightly muddle-headed, appreciation for history. The most threatening life form we encountered, though, apart from some inebriated WWII veterans at the George and Dragon on holiday from their wives, were some testy sheep that chased us across a field.
Research in the bayou country of Texas offered challenges of a different sort. I first visited the area southeast of Houston, close the Armand Bayou Nature Preserve, with my brother in the middle of summer, and I posted about some of the wildlife we encountered. In particular, a large alligator that seemed to love chicken nuggets. On a subsequent trip, I went with Dr. Tom Godwin—a Houston veterinarian and local historian, whose name I borrowed for one of the characters in my latest book—who cheerfully obliged my request (did I say that out loud?) to see an alligator up close. Evidently, gators like hamburger as much as they like chicken nuggets.
To be continued. . .
The Outcasts, a novel of 1870 Texas, will be published October 1, 2013.