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Thom Stark on Research for Writing   Leave a comment

LELA: In last week’s conversation with Thom Stark, writer of the American Sulla trilogy, we got to talking about research and how Ray Bradbury (and his wife Ginny) precisely worked out the time it would take to get to Mars because they felt that the strength of their science would make the book more believable. I completely agreed, using some examples of my own research efforts. I then asked Thom “What research went into the American Sulla trilogy?”

For readers unfamiliar with May Day, it begins with a nuclear explosion that takes out much of the Eastern Seaboard. I was personally in awe of the scientific detail Thom employed there.


Thom StarkTHOM:
The ratio of hours I invested in research versus hours I spent actually writing May Day was about three or four to one. Virtually every chapter demanded research of some kind, on a dizzying variety of subjects. For the first chapter of the prologue, for instance, I spent hours tracking down every document I could find on the layout of the new World Trade Center in general, and One World Trade Center in particular. I read about the radiation detectors incorporated into the complex’s security precautions in a press release. I pored over Google Maps to trace the turn-by-turn approach to the service level off Washington Street to make sure the traffic flow was correct. I called on my own experience delivering audio-visual and computer equipment to skyscrapers in the San Francisco Bay Area for the part describing how the bomb travels from the stolen van to the service elevator. In an early draft, Aziz delivers the copier to the 64th floor. A friend of mine who reviewed it pointed out that the building plan called for that floor to be a sky lobby, so I changed the elevator stop to the 63rd. I looked up industrial collating copiers, and picked Canon as the manufacturer, and Imagemaster Advance as the product line. Obviously Canon would have revved the model number by what was, at the time I wrote the chapter, eight years in the future, so I awarded that to the year 2020 itself. Again, Aziz and “Randy Carlson”’s passage through the security door was based on my own experience with standard security measures working for Wells Fargo Bank. All that went into just the first chapter.

Did I mention there are more than 175 chapters in the book?

LELA: Oh, my! That’s a lot of research!


#amwriting, #thriller

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