DOING THE RESEARCH
Readers of The Deadliest Lie often comment on their having been transported to Ancient Alexandria, that the words disappeared and instead they witnessed or even participated in the action. An author fosters this experience by providing the details that contribute toward the reader’s being able to imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of a setting.
Long before conceptualizing the story, I studied the landmarks and institutions, history and architecture, commerce and industries, traditions and customs, climate and governance of Alexandria. Then, as I progressed through the writing, I needed to bring the story to life with details. For example, I needed to know what flora and fauna graced the gardens, harbors, and streets. To write The Deadliest Lie, I needed to know not just that papyrus was made from the stems of a wetland sedge but how the strips were pressed into sheets in the factories along Lake Mareotis.
For The Deadliest Hate, I knew that hydrochloric acid would be a significant alchemical agent in my story, but once I learned that it is commonly used as a digestive aid, I could justify Miriam’s having a ready supply. Likewise, I needed to find out how an Egyptian cobra slides on a smooth surface, how a gladiator moves his feet along the sandy floor of an arena, how a tincture of opium tastes, and how mandrake root smells as it burns.
So researching the details is key to bringing readers into a story, but no author can anticipate all the details until immersed in the actual writing. And that’s part of the fun, never knowing what you’ll be studying that day.
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