Okay – I’ll be honest. Part of the reason I write contemporary romantic suspense as opposed to historical is that I don’t have the time or inclination to do research. It’s not that I don’t enjoy history or investigating the past. And it’s not that I’m lazy – really. It’s simply that I’m already stretched so thin that I simply don’t have time. I own and operate a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn, and I’m a pastor’s wife in a different town, 85 miles away. I play the piano at church with a traveling band of musicians, and I’m very involved in the lives of my family. I write on the run whenever I have a spare second, often with my laptop propped on the door of the glove compartment while my husband drives us between our two homes. If I had to stop and do extensive research on a specific time period or worry about maintaining historical accuracy, I’m convinced I’d never finish anything.
To keep things simple, I try to write about locations I’ve been to or lived in, and occupations or fields I’ve worked in or been trained to do. I’m less likely to make silly mistakes that way. I’ve had characters who are Realtors (I’m licensed in the state of Colorado), interior designers, quilters, farmers, pastors, home renovators, and business owners in Minnesota, Iowa, and Colorado – all things and places that are intimately familiar to me. No matter – it still takes an immense amount of time to research and validate facts, even for familiar scenarios.
Part of the problem is that my characters somehow seem to acquire minds of their own. As they go traipsing off in different directions, pulling “my” story and stretching “my” plotline to include things that I never would have thought of on my own, attempting actions and activities I’d never dare try, I’m invariably forced to follow their lead, searching for those tidbits of knowledge I’m lacking to keep the story grounded and authentic.
When I started writing Blue Belle, I had never been to Tobermory or the Isle of Mull, or even Scotland. When I finally set foot on the island, I had a strange sense of déjà vu because I was already so well acquainted with the place via the internet. One night, while I was sitting on a bench near the harbor, a woman walked by that looked exactly like I’d always envisioned Isabelle, my main character. It was eerie! I also had to change an entire scene that had Isabelle blithely scooting around Mull on her bicycle when I discovered how hilly the island is!
Scoping out a location is only the beginning. I spent almost an entire day researching European chocolates for Blue Belle. When I was in Mull, I even had to go to Tobermory Chocolates to taste their famous Rose and Violet Cream Chocolates. You know, so I could describe them accurately. Yes, we authors are forced to spend our time laboring over many such unsavory tasks. I spent a huge amount of time looking for Scottish slang, phrases, and speech idioms that would define and give depth and reality to my characters and their conversations, yet be understandable to the average American reader. I researched castles and keeps, Cromwell’s practice of slighting, and the art of building with stones in both Scotland and Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
Isabelle is a journalist, so part of my research involved investigating the facts behind each of the stories she was working on in the book, from Mad Cow and hoof and mouth to puffins and vultures, a Celtic bathing pool, and the centuries-old gold some people believe is still buried on a sunken Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay.
The thing I like least about research is that I’ve already learned some things the hard way, which, sadly, means I already know everything I need to know about them without doing a single Google search. The thing I love most about researching is that once you start looking for specific answers to certain questions, you discover amazing things that lead you in completely new directions that then become fodder for your plot, and on and on in an explosive chain reaction of knowledge. It’s fascinating!
One of the things I’ve always loved about reading books is the new worlds that are opened up to me as I see a place or situation through the eyes of each character. Being an author has stretched me even more. Research can seem like a necessary evil at times, and a thrill at others. But no matter how hectic my schedule is or how bad my attitude about having to jump out of the story and take the time to chase down facts and figures, research is a great opportunity to learn more things, broaden your perspective, and see the world in a different light.
Title: Blue Belle, a Wildflowers of Scotland novel
Blue Belle Blurb:
Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. When Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in Tobermory Bay, it won’t matter what walls they’re hiding behind. Rocks will fall. Castles will crumble. No secret will be safe.
Age-old castles and blue-watered bays,
White sandy beaches and quaint cottage stays.
A rainbow of colors, and chocolates, hand-dipped,
A valley of bluebells, and sheep, freshly clipped.
Legends galore, buried treasure, and more…
In Tobermory, Scotland, that’s what’s in store.
www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com,
He was gone. Isabelle grabbed for her purse, flung it open and frantically clutched her traveler’s checks, her credit cards, her cell phone. Where were the keys to the rental car? The keys to the beach house? She’d had them in her purse, hadn’t she?
A key turned in the lock, but she was so crazed she didn’t hear it.
“Looking for something?”
Her shoulders jerked taut – she looked up and felt her face growing red as she watched the realization dawning on Michael’s face.
“No,” she lied. One jolt of heat from his eyes and the snowball had started to melt.
“You thought I was gone.” His voice was accusing. His eyes looked hurt – half perturbed, half angry.
She looked at the insulated cups in his hands and sniffed. “Hot chocolate with raspberry syrup?” She tried to slide her wallet back into her purse but it caught halfway in.
“You’re shaking. You thought I’d skipped out on you.”
“I didn’t know... where you were...”
“You were checking to see if I’d stolen anything from your purse.”
Her whole body felt cold.
“You really think I could walk out on you after last night?”
“No. No, I don’t. I trust you.”
Smashwords (any e-format including Nook) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/434398
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bluebelle-sherrie-hansen/1119403747?ean=9781938101533
Amazon Paperback http://amzn.com/B00K33ND3K
Second Wind Publishing http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=241
Having a bit of Scotch-Irish heritage but knowing I may never travel there, this book grabbed my attention and took me away! I loved the characters - lots of depth and somehow a kind of familiarity, as if I know them in real life! The author also kept a strong plot line but filling it with unusual and intriguing twists and turns. I certainly didn't except the drama at the end! I couldn't put it down!
Cottages, Castles, and Chocolates...Oh my!
Filled with intrigue, romance, beautiful descriptions, and real emotions, Blue Belle by Sherrie Hansen, has something for everyone. Sherrie's written representations of the colorful landscapes and breathtaking scenery in her novel bring the Scottish countryside to life. Her tantalizing illustrations of tasty cuisine described throughout the book place you right in the middle of the story making you hungry for more.
At the heart of the tale, I can absolutely relate to the vulnerability of Isabelle's character. Her struggle with a past regret and wanting to trust again are true feelings we have all faced at some point in our lives.
The element of suspense Sherrie conveys so eloquently kept me reading through Blue Belle as well as Wild Rose and Thistledown. I'm definitely looking forward to her next Wildflower of Scotland novel, Shy Violet.
Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer's grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and has lived in Bar Harbor, Maine, Colorado Springs, CO, and Augsburg, Germany. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when she couldn't sleep (mostly because she was so keyed up from working 12 hour days at the B&B), she met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. Sherrie lives in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. With her Wildflowers of Scotland novels, "Wild Rose" and “Blue Belle”, she has seven books in print. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano with the worship team at church, needlepointing, photography, decorating historic homes, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew.
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com