I love doing research. Sometimes I get carried away and discover a thousand times more about the subject than I need for my story! But it’s such an enjoyable process that I don’t intend to stop.
There are many different sources of information: the Internet is wonderful, your library is full of relevant information, and you’ve probably accumulated a few useful reference books of your own. I also use street directories and maps, and although I’ve not tried it so far, I have been told that Google Earth is a wonderful resource. Your friends and acquaintances are repositories of unsuspected facts, and if all else fails, ask an expert.
For A Darker Music I needed to research both music, from the point of view of a classical viola player, and the business of breeding ultra-fine-wool merino sheep. The farming background came out of my own experience, as did the location. I invented the house and garden, drawing detailed plans, which I pinned to the wall in front of my workstation.
Although I could listen to recordings of viola music, I felt that I needed the more intimate experience of holding the instrument, hearing its sound close to my ear: I needed to find a viola player. I live in a country area where professional musicians are thin on the ground, so I contacted a member of a nearby amateur orchestra, and he put me in touch with a lady who has since become a friend. She brought her viola to my house and we sat on my veranda while she played it, then, wonder of wonder, she let me play it (or rather, make noises on it) to get some idea of the musician’s experience. Of course, I listened to many recordings too, selecting the music that would suit my story and my character, reading the notes, absorbing as much as I could of that world.
The sheep business was easier, though not as much fun. I’ve lived in the country and known the owners of merino studs so had a grasp of that, but the ultra-fine breeding program was new to me; I was helped along by an item on the front page of the newspaper one day when a bale of ultra-fine merino wool was sold for a record price. Using the Internet and books at the library, I went back through the history of the merino breed, found out how these sheep are managed, and married that with my own experience of being around sheep.
The Herb Gardener needed a different approach, and less effort. I travelled back to Western Australia where I had lived for many years and imposed myself on some old friends who had a farm out of town. I stayed there, walking about, looking at everything, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds, taking in the total experience. The herb gardening was easy: in the past I had set up two herb gardens and had my own reference books. The local police detective outlined the way a murder investigation would be carried out in that district, and the local newspaper carried a front-page report of a police round-up of cannabis growers. That just left me with the characters and the story to put together.
Still hurting after a painful divorce, Joanna leaves the city, moving with her six-year-old daughter Mia to a country town. She’s looking for a better, happier life, and when she meets farmer Chris Youngman, she discovers the possibility of a future as a farmer’s wife.
Joanna is at first dismayed by the unexpected isolation of the farm, but Chris’s affection helps her to adjust. Then the unexplained death of a young farm worker brings complications she could never have imagined, and Joanna has to fight for her happiness, her family, and even her own life.
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Genre - Contemporary Romance, Thriller
Rating – PG
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