Monday, June 22, 2015

Robin Gianna & Research to Enrich Your Story

Please welcome Robin Gianna to the blog today!



I hear some of you saying, “Oh, yes, I loove to research,” as you gleefully rub your hands together.  Also hear others saying, “Research. Bah. Hate it,” as you drop your heads to your desk.

There are potential problems with both attitudes. Research lovers sometimes spend so much time at it, the book takes forever to get written. Or never gets written at all. Haters do the bare minimum, and miss out on ways just a little extra research can not only strengthen a story, but sometimes send it in a new direction.

Every time I get on the internet to look things up, I’m amazed all over again at the resources literally at our fingertips. What’s the average temperature in Cambridge, England in November?   Where are the trendy places to live in Paris? Images of the people and landscape of West Africa?  All found in remarkably little time (double-checked for accuracy, of course). But don’t stop there.  

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I also go to the library to grab books that might help. I got lucky to find an amazing memoir (The House
at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper) when I was writing a book set in Liberia that educated me about life there before and after the recent, devastating civil wars. That memoir helped me greatly with small details that I believe made the story stronger.

And there’s nothing like talking to people who are experts on a subject, which I do all the time to learn a about various medical details and different medical specialties.  Most everyone is happy to share his or her expertise.

An important thing to keep in mind? Whatever research camp you fall into, don’t let it bog you down. I recommend that you get the story started so you have the characters and basics firmly in your mind first. When you’re getting words on the page and realize there’s a detail you need to find out about, just make a note to yourself in that spot and keep going forward.  

But don’t let too many chapters pass before setting aside the time to research. You may discover things that lend themselves to entire scenes, a recurring theme, or even a whole new direction that you never would have written at all if you hadn’t learned whatever inspired it.

Here are a few examples of ways research helped me as a writer and enriched my stories:  

  1. My debut book was set in Benin, West Africa. I chose that setting because my husband had worked in a mission hospital there, and had great stories and photos which I used as the foundation.  But in doing additional research, one of the things I learned is that Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo, or Vodun as they call it.  I integrated that into the story, and it played a minor, but significant, recurring role in the story.
  2. I wrote a Valentine’s themed book set in Paris, which meant February, which meant no romantic moments in a warm park amid blooming roses!  So I had to look for other things to do in Paris, and in studying the weather, found it rains and snows quite a bit which lent itself to a recurring theme with an umbrella and some kissing beneath it!  Also ended up sending them to the Alsace region to do some snow-shoeing and visit a medieval town and vineyard, all of which were important scenes.
  3. My upcoming November release is part of a continuity with other authors, where all the stories are set in Cambridge, England. As I researched, I learned there’s a river that meanders throughout the city. Punting (pushing a boat with a pole, a bit like in Venice but the boats are flat) is popular there, both as a sport and a leisure activity. That became a big part of my story, with what I hope are some fun scenes on the River Cam. :-)
  4. My current release takes place in and near Delphi, Greece. While I was inspired to set it there after a fabulous trip last summer, and had many first-hand memories and details, there were lots of things I learned later.  One important bit of information was that the area is prone to earthquakes, and that they had a huge one in 2009 that damaged much of the area. That was such an ah-ha moment for me, it changed several important parts of my story, one of which is that the heroine’s parents’ died during the earthquake (I originally had it happen in a plane crash, but the earthquake worked much better). I won’t tell you the other way the earthquake factors into the medical mystery in the story - you’ll just have to read it to find out for yourself! ;-)

So remember - research isn’t just about those little details like average temperatures and trendy places to live and what people wear. It truly will inspire new ideas and directions that will make your story stronger and maybe even easier to write.  And isn’t that always a great thing? 

How about you?  Research lover or hater?  Have any stories to share about ways it enriched one of your stories?

About Robin
After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens.  Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.
Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.
Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

Robin Gianna’s new release. Her Greek Doctor’s Proposal, HM&B Medical Romance

The question he thought he'd never ask… 

Archaeologist Laurel Evans put her career on hold to care for her younger sisters. Now, close to achieving her goals, she won't let anything distract her. Laurel has come to Delphi to dig up ancient treasures, but she finds a modern-day Greek god instead—local doctor Andros Drakoulias!

A devoted single dad, Andros is determined to give his little girl stability. He knows his fling with Laurel can't last, so why is it so hard to imagine a future without her by his side?

Read Reader Reviews

Read an Excerpt

Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle


Amazon UK 

Harlequin US

Mills & Boon UK

Thanks Robin! I fall into the "Love Research" camp - and it can definitely lead to way too much time disappearing!

How about you? Which Research Camp do you fall into?


  1. Where Voodoo began? Scary thing.
    You really used what your research discovered to your advantage.

  2. Congrats to Robin on her release. I love research. I do most of it on the internet, but also read books. I try to give myself a stopping point, because I end up reading the same things and then go off on tangents looking up other things.

  3. I'm always happy to research for a book.
    And I love the way robin has worked her trips into her books! Fun!

  4. Great point that research isn't just about getting the details right. I have to set timers for myself for researching since I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes. :)

  5. Those little details add so much credibility to the story. My books are set in towns I've visited often enough to know well, and what I don't know, I look up.

  6. I love your tips on research. I would have never thought of reading a memoir. You certainly used a variety of ways to weave in your research.

  7. Totally agree with your thoughts on research, Robin. I have worked with a number of writers in the background and pointed out that some research errors, if the reader was knowledgeable, could have them not bothering with the rest of the book.

    Thanks for having Robin guest on your awesome site, eh, Jemi! :)


  8. Alex - agreed!

    Medeia - me too - a timer is a good idea :)

    Beth - with all the places you've visited, you should try it too :)

    Elizabeth - me too!

    Diane - I haven't done a lot of traveling, so I make up my towns! :)

    Natalie - a memoir is a great idea!

    Gary - Thanks! And you're so right on those little details turning off a reader!

  9. Hi, Alex! Learning about Voodoo was fascinating! I found it's really about animism, which is a belief that inanimate objects contain guiding spirits. Not so much about sticking pins in dolls ;-)

    Medeia, I'm like you - I LOVE research. But also like you, I have to be careful to not go overboard and spend so much time at it I'm distracted from getting the book written.

    Hi, Beth! Yes, there's nothing like traveling to inspire a story! Hmm...where do I want to go next? Maybe I'll research some travel destinations...;-)

    Yes, Elizabeth, those rabbit holes can be pretty long and deep at times, can't they? ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

    Settings you know well first-hand are wonderful, Diane. There's nothing like really knowing what a place looks and feels like to incorporate those details into a story. Thanks for your comment!

    Thanks, Natalie! I got lucky with the memoir, but that's why it's worth it, to me, to spend a little extra time searching for those kinds of golden nuggets. Thanks for visiting!

    Research errors are a bad way to pull a reader right out of a story aren't they Gary? I've set several books in San Diego because we have an uncle who lives right on the beach there, so we freeload as often as possible :-) I read a story where the characters were surfers in Northern California, and were looking forward to going to the warm waters of San Diego. Uh, no, the water's not warm there! And that tiny detail that pulled me out of the story and reminded me there's someone writing it would have been so easy to check. I appreciate your comment!

  10. Congratulations to Robin! Sounds like great research for awesome story!

    Hi Jemi!

  11. Congrats, Robin! Hmm, I guess I fall in the middle. I don't hate research, but I don't love it. I like learning stuff, but I don't necessarily want to call what I learn "research."

  12. And that's great, Cherie - we all have a process that works for us. Plus, you can call it whatever you want...maybe story enrichment instead of research? :-) Best of luck, and thanks for commenting!

  13. Robin, congratulations on your new book! I usually love research, and I like your tips. It's so smart to make a note to yourself and keep writing when you don't want to lose momentum, and it's so exciting when research helps your story! Thanks for sharing your experience. Your books sound great! Thanks, Jemi, for bringing us Robin!

  14. Thanks for your congrats, Dawn - I'm so glad you stopped by! Best of luck with your research and writing

  15. Thanks for sharing your method and philosophy (and book), Robin.

    I find research to be a necessary evil. I find myself wanting to be accurate, but not taking on a project that's going to take weeks of research.

  16. I've been thinking about this a lot, Theresa. I do fall into the "love research" camp, but as I mention, know it can go on too long if we let it! I've noticed that a number of writers (Nora Roberts being one of the most famously productive) will write several books based on the same research. For example, books set in the ballet world, or archaeology. I need to consider doing that when I've spent a lot of time researching a subject - obviously, it was of interest to me, so why not spin it into several stories? Haven't done that yet, but my brain is percolating...

    Thanks for your comment!

  17. RBH - I agree!

    Cherie - possibly the best of all worlds!

    Dawn - you're welcome! That is a great ip - so important to write while it's flowing! :)

    Theresa - the amount of time can be daunting, but it all depends on how much the story calls to us!

    Robin - love the idea of using the same research for multiple stories! If it works for Nora Roberts, I'm in :) Thanks again for stopping by!!

  18. Thanks so much for having me, Jemi! Always a pleasure xoxo

  19. I'm a definite research fan. I love coming across unexpected discoveries that add depth to the story.

  20. You're a woman after my own heart, Leslie :-) Nothing like those unexpected discoveries that set the lightbulb off!

  21. Leslie - me too! So many things to know :)

    RR - hi! :)

  22. I am probably somewhere in the middle. I like research and get into when I do it, but usually don't go overboard. I liked the way Robin pointed out that being on either end of the research spectrum can be tough and why. Great to learn about ways research changed everything. :) Wishing Robin the best of luck!

  23. Jess - you nailed it! Like everything else, it's probably all about balance - and like everything else, I need to work at that! :)

  24. All great advice and tips, thanks for sharing.