Shannon shares her experience researching Rodeo Family, her recent Heartsong Presents release. To enter the book giveaway, reply with either a comment or an answer to the question given at the end of the post.
Historical and suspense writers have to do a lot of research. For some reason, people seem to think contemporary writers don’t. Not true. I’ve always heard—write what you know. But, there’s only so much I know.
I used to hate research because I’d be on a roll with a book and then get pulled away with research. Now, I muddle through my first draft and research afterward. Since I have more time that way, I don’t mind research anymore. I incorporate my research info during my initial revisions before I turn the book into my editor. Sometimes if I’m not sure about a detail and don’t have time to fully research it before my deadline, I’ll work on finding what I need before I get my edits back from my editor.
Once I came up with the concept for my first rodeo book—country boy/bull rider meets city girl/advertising exec, I needed a year round indoor rodeo. What better place than the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. My heroine was from Dallas and the hero rode bulls at the stockyards, but I needed a small town for him to live in and own a dude ranch. I Googled cities and found Aubrey, an hour away from Dallas/Fort Worth.
It caught my attention that Aubrey is known as Horse Country USA. I contacted the chamber of commerce and the city secretary, Nancy Trammel Downes was very helpful. She gave me details about main street and landscaping in the area and a ton of info about their annual Peanut Festival. When I wrote my Peanut Festival scene, she was nice enough to read it and make sure I got the details right.
My dad helped with the rodeo since he announced at our small town horseshow when I was a teen. Since I was writing a specific rodeo, a rode trip was in order. My family and I included the Fort Worth Stockyards in a vacation trip. Before our trip, I called Cowtown Colisseum and arranged an appointment with DeeDee Barker-Wix, director of sales.
A few weeks later on the way to see family, my husband, son and I toured the historic district, went through the Cattlepen Maze, ate at the Cattleman’s Steakhouse, and went to the Stockyards Championship rodeo. While there I met with DeeDee who shared a host of useful information. Now whenever I run into a question, I e-mail DeeDee and she tells me what I need to know. I also visited with executive director, Julia Buswold at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum. Since our initial Q & A session, I’ve e-mailed Julia for info and made a return visit for a signing at the museum.
By book two, I needed a restaurant where my characters could eat after church. Nancy told me about Moms on Main owned by Steve and Krys Murray. I incorporated their cafe into the book and the next time we visited our Texas branch of the family, we visited Aubrey, ate at Moms, and enjoyed the Christmas on Main Festival. The Murray’s carry my books in their cafe and have hosted me for two signings there.
Book 7, Rodeo Family was pretty easy as far as research goes. It takes place at the Fort Worth Stockyards, so I already had the setting nailed down. The heroine works in an interior decorating store and dreams of being a clothing designer. The hero is the new singer at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo and the song leader at a church in Aubrey. The heroine ends up being the pianist, so they work together at the church. No research required.
But the heroine had just ended a relationship with an abusive boyfriend, so I had to research battered women and found what I needed on the net. I ended up needing help with law issues. Again I went to the ACFW loop and asked for help. Wesley Harris, a 37 year police veteran and writer’s consultant answered all of my questions and directed me to his website where I found tons of info.
For law, I found help close to home. I’d met Carolyn Boyles at a writer’s conference several years ago and have kept in contact since. I had no idea her husband was an attorney. Raymond was nice enough to read my scene and critique it to make sure it sounded like a real courtroom.
Since I began writing, I definitely know more than I used to. But there’s still a lot I don’t know. With each book, I’ll research and learn more. And when my rodeo series ends, I’ll need a new setting. I hear a road trip coming on.
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Do you have to do research for your job or hobby? Do you love it or hate it?
Meet Shannon Vannatter
Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.
She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/
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About Rodeo Family
TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER
She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.
Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?
Thanks for having me, H. L. I forgot to explain the picture. That’s my husband in ‘jail’ during our Fort Worth trip. They had an old-timey photography studio where the man dresses like a gunslinger and the woman like a barmaid. We should have done that just for fun. Maybe we will the next time.
Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing with us, Shannon. Research trips can really be fun, especially when the setting has a rich cultural history, like the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I agree that research for contemporary stories has its own set of challenges. So many people know the areas we write about that mistakes are glaring and sometimes irritating to the readers.
Very true, H.L. At least for historical, authors can research, but readers never really know if they got the details right since they didn’t live back then.
Shannon, I loved reading about your research and the methods you use to incorporate it into your writing. I can see how research is very important for writers of contemporary fiction. An author definitely would need to rely on experts to advise her–as in the examples you mentioned. Readers might figure out quickly that the author didn’t know what she was talking about, w/o expert opinions guiding her.
Hey Kay, if the reader figures out I don’t know what I’m writing about, they might not trust me and lose interest in the book. My next book is about a school nurse. I found a RN and two school nurses to help me out. People have been so nice to help and their input has been invaluable. I usually put their names in the acknowledgements.