I spend a great deal of time on research – no, don’t feel sorry for me because I simply love it. But sometimes even the most diligent research leaves holes in the information, and when that happens, you can be sure that someone – a real-life person – will know the answer. And for me, one of the joys of writing has been to discover how enormously helpful experts are with their information.
Last week I mentioned to someone that I am planning a series of books whose narrator will have a military background in the Peninsular Wars, but that with no military service in my family (my grandad worked in an aircraft factory but that’s it), I am something of a novice and find it rather confusing. Ah, he said, I did an MA on the history of the cavalry and can probably help with that – would you permit (permit!) me to take the skeleton character details and create for you a credible military history and timeline for your character? Would I ever! And then yesterday I contacted a man who has just published a book on the two men who were the first Commissioners of the Met Police, to ask if he had any details about the swearing-in ceremony for the first cohort of officers, and he has responded with all sorts of juicy specifics (it involved parchment).
I already try to pay it forward by sharing my own research in my monthly “behind the scenes” updates, but I shall have to up my game and make sure that I am always as generous with my own research as other people have been with theirs.