Friday, September 2, 2011

The Phone as a Research Tool

Lately I've read two great posts from author friends who have blogged about interviewing people who can give you details about the subjects and scenarios in your book. Maris Soule wrote about several people who have helped her create believable scenes and characters in her novels. And Bronwyn Green wrote a hilarious account about a man who was good enough to give her the information she wanted, and was a great sport about the ribbing he got when named as a source in her book.

So I decided to follow their examples. After all, they're both great authors, and I want to be like them when I grow up. I'm starting on a new project in which one of the main characters is an ice sculptor. (The reason for that is kinda long and convoluted, so I'll skip that.) I know nothing about ice sculpting, so I went to my usual sources – the library, and the internet. No luck. There's very little out there on the process of ice sculpting. So I asked my fellow writers if anyone had an acquaintance I could interview. And I looked online and found a local company. It happened that the fabulous Tanya Eby knew someone – and that someone owned the company I had already contacted! So I asked for someone I could interview, or at least send a list of questions to. And I got an answer – with a phone number and invitation to call!

I took a week to get my questions in order, and when I had full pages of them, I called. The time I called didn't work, but he gave me another time to call – and I kept my appointment. I had a wonderful half hour conversation with Randy Finch, co-owner of Ice Sculptures, Ltd. Randy and his company were featured in several episodes of The Ice Brigade, airing on The Food Network. I was so impressed by how friendly and open Randy was. He answered all my questions – even the silly female ones, such as "What's the difference between a wood-cutting chainsaw and an ice-cutting one?" It turns out Randy has co-authored a book about ice sculpting, which is used as a textbook in culinary classes. So he's definitely an authority on the subject.

I feel great about this interview. I learned so much, and I can now say I've had a conversation with a television personality. Now I just need to find a physical therapist, a snowplow operator, a caterer, and a wounded veteran. And then I can finish the details on this story.

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