#Openbook – Open book blog hop – 29 July


This week’s topic is:

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have not written that many books. My six children’s picture books are pure fantasy and imagination [with recipes], as is Silly Willy goes to Cape Town.

I have written two YA books, a novella called While the Bombs Fell and a supernatural/horror which will be available in early September called Through the Nethergate. I have also written short stories for two anthologies that are currently available, Dark Visions and Death Among Us.

While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalised biography of my mom’s life as a young girl growing up in Bungay, East Anglia during World War II. This book required a large amount of research as it was based on a real time period. I created a time line (on the advice of my developmental editor) and included all the major historical events on it. I then overlaid my mom’s age and memories over the historical timeline. It was quite a complicated exercise. I then set the stage for the historical event that was taking place at the time of the memory by weaving bits of historical fact into her story. It took me a year to write While the Bombs Fell. I did the timeline up front and then researched the historical events in more detail as I wrote them into the story. My mom also spent a lot off time telling me her stories and listening to my typed up and re-written accounts.

While the bombs fell 2

The idea for Through the Nethergate came out of the research I did for Through the Nethergate. I discovered that an inn in my mom’s home town was haunted by over twenty ghosts. I researched the available basic facts for each ghost and then made up their story, weaving the real events into the story. As TTNG includes a number of real people and events, I had to do a lot of research as I wrote it. When you write about a specific historical person and time, everything must be correct from the clothes they wore to the coach they drove, right down to the tires (wooden in the 12th century for those few that had carriages). Here again, I did the basic research up front and embellished the stories with additional facts and information as I went along.


The three short stories I wrote for Death Among Us are all based on real events and time frames so these also required a significant amount of research. I can’t abide incorrect facts in books so I do my best to be really careful, often checking to eight to ten different sources of information.

The Haunting of William, which features in Dark Visions, is also based on a real ghost and I researched the time period and the duties of various servants in a manor house as well as the law relating to servant girls who became pregnant out of wedlock.

The Willow Tree features a serial killer who suffers from OCD and PTSD. I already know a lot about those disorders due to my son’s suffering from these two illnesses, but I did do a bit more research to ensure the symptoms and facts were accurate.

I am currently 35 000 words into my new WIP which is about a world that is reeling from the impact of climate crisis and the fourth industrial revolution. I am building a world of smart cities for the unemployed and pensioners which sounds like a utopia but has hidden fatal flaws. This book is my biggest research challenge yet as I have had to understand and research heat waves, cold waves, flooding, the polar vortex and el nino. I have also researched genome editing including germline editing, nuclear winter and automated worms (malware) that can infect a network. I spend four hours this weekend learning how an automated worm works and about back doors and attribution techniques. I also researched preventative measures for global warming and many other things such as the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum. For this book, I did upfront research on climate change, fourth industrial revolution and genetic engineering and now I am filling in the details as I go along. It is amazing doing this research. I love it.

Do you research your novels, or just write what you know?  Click on the Inlinkz link party enter button to discover what other blog-hoppers do.

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21 thoughts on “#Openbook – Open book blog hop – 29 July

  1. Marvelous post, Robbie. I research like a fiend — before and during the writing… and even after, during editing. It comes from decades of having to get it just right for the executives who basically took credit for my words. Whether or not I think I know my subject, I research, validate, confirm. It’s just the way I am. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Teagan, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am like this too as I am fearful of being wrong about something. I try to check to ten sites if possible. It isn’t always possible. I always include a disclaimer too that it is fictional.


  2. I almost never start research until partway into the story because I’m a character-driven discovery writer and proud of it. But, I find life gives us so much information these days that we don’t even realize when we’re “researching.” The character of Peter in my WIP “What If … Wasn’t” is loosely based on the experiences of a friend of ours who did four years in prison for a drunk driving death – the experiences in parole, the PTSD resulting from his crime and incarceration, the guilty and shame, even’s Peter’s balm are his — but I don’t write about real people, so Peter isn’t him. He never was. He presented himself to me as a different person from BJ and then I borrowed BJ’s experiences to fill in what Peter was telling me. Did BJ’s truth influence Peter’s creation? Probably, but not consciously, not until after. And then there’s a bunch of internet research and what I learned from my old job at mental health that has gone into the writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gosh, that is a terrible thing to happen, for both the victim and the driver. Driving while drunk has reduced significantly in South Africa and most people have a designated driver or use an uber. A fascinating theme for a book. I look forward to reading it, I also know a fair bit about PTSD and OCD because my son suffers from these conditions.


      1. No, my son is only 16. He had 18 operations between the ages of 1 and 7 years old and these were his trigger for PTSD. The OCD is his way of coping with the anxiety and stress. His OCD has improved over the past year as I think he is making a huge effort to control it.


  3. Great post, Robbie:) I think research shines through in a book. I always appreciate it. I always fact check in all my books. I wrote a historical fiction before computers and internet were popular. Spent a lot time at the library:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Research like yours takes a lot of time and work.
    While I do some research every now and again for my stories, most of the time I do not. I write purely fictional stories about real life people from personal experiences and observations.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed reading about how you research your writing. I guess I do that on a much smaller scale when I write pieces of poetry. While the internet sources may not be the most reliable I think there is enough that I can use, especially for a piece that is only a page long. And as you have seen I enjoy using some of the facts that I place at the bottom so my pieces can be entertaining and educational. While I think that most of my readers are adults – there is a possibility that an adult might share with a child or two. And any sharing is good. I also learn things that maybe were only touched on briefly when I was in school myself.

    Continued success. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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