Archive for the ‘Bob Heinlein’ Tag

Writer Sweat Equity – Research   1 comment

Thom Stark and I began a conversation following his author interview with me here and here (which I intend to run in its entirety some Wednesday when I need an author interview. It was far ranging, from writing topics to politics and religion. I intend to share these with my readers on Thursdays.

 

 

Thom StarkLELA: I enjoyed the part of May Day by Thom Stark that I’ve read so far, by the way. I could definitely see myself as a fan of the series. I like political thrillers when they’re well done. You clearly have done your research and you present some very striking images of what such a terrorist attack would look like. My hat’s off to you for a phenomenal work of future fiction.

THOM: Thank you. Like most writers, I love it when my work is praised by other authors.

Research is something I strongly believe should be a critical element of the writer’s tool chest – one that he or she should use early and often. It’s every bit as important as, say, a thesaurus, a spell checker, or a dictionary. Or a knowledge of proper grammar and punctuation, for that matter. The keys are to learn enough about a given subject to know how much to tell the reader about it, and to make sure that what you tell them is as factually correct as possible. That helps build the bond of trust between you that allows the reader to let go of his or her skepticism and enter fully into the world you’re creating.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s classic juvenile novel The Rolling Stones, he and his wife Virginia painstakingly worked out the orbital mechanics of a Hohmann Earth/Mars transfer orbit, using the Moon to slingshot the Stone family’s spacecraft into the proper trajectory. It was a major job of calculation at a time when there were no desktop computers, or even scientific handheld calculators. They did it all using slide rules and an astronomical ephemeris (and it’s worth noting that Ginny did most of the work, because, as Heinlein frequently noted, she was the better engineer of the two). They certainly didn’t expect his teenage readers to check their equations – or even to understand them, for that matter – but they put in the necessary skull sweat, because Bob Heinlein was convinced that getting the mechanical details right would help make the 21st Century human civilzation he was painting all the more believable to his readers. And he was right, too. As someone who read that book in 1959, I can attest to that.

 

DSC01494LELA: I definitely agree with the importance of research. My only published novel is a fantasy. Many people think that fantasy is just made up in the writer’s head, but I’ve researched Celtic mythology, poisons, hawks, horses, cheeses, clothing, hot springs, railroad tunnels and a whole host of other subjects in order to build the world of Daermad so that it makes sense. Whether a horse can see in color matters if one of your characters can actually talk to the horse and, while it might not matter to most readers, to the one reader who knows something about horse vision, it will be the difference between willing suspension of disbelief or spending the rest of The Willow Branch watching for my next mistake.

Heinlein is an example of a writer who never disappointed me with his writing and now I know why. I did not know that story and I am very impressed.

What sort of research went into writing The American Sulla trilogy? 

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