Research, research...

No-one wants to read a novel full of facts and figures, but equally we don’t need writing that’s so bereft of description and interesting tid-bits we get no sense of where we are and what’s going on in the story.

For romance this is always a careful balance, and what I’m playing with right now is a novella set in Scarlet Bay – to follow Summer Sparks, Summer Secrets, and Summer Spice.

First, I needed to know more about Antarctica because that’s where my hero, Mack, has been working.  The northern arctic region includes pieces of Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia. Animals there can wander in and out as the seasons change. But not so Antarctica – it’s totally surrounded by sea, so anything coming to check out the southern polar region has to be able to swim or fly. No polar bears or caribou. Lots of penguins and seals.

And how do the research scientists survive there? In this case, in the green buildings of Scott Base. I can now tell you so much about Scott Base I could bore you silly. Did you know they separate out all the human waste and bring the solid stuff back to New Zealand to avoid contaminating the ice-shelf? (Euw! No – of course I won’t be including this, but what dedication.)

What did Mack do there? How did he get home to take part in this story? It only takes a sentence or two, but the facts need to check out.

Gardening! I’m on solid ground now. I’ve cringed in the past reading about lilacs and dahlias blooming together. Different seasons, people! It’s easy enough to get it right with a little research. Someone quite famous, who I’d better not name, kept referring to Hostas as shrubs. Nope – they’re soft leafy things from the lily family. Here’s Philip with some of ours.

Hostas in Kris Pearson's garden

My heroine, Becca, is the landscape gardener who had brief mentions in the earlier books. I’m definitely checking the spellings of a few botanical names.

And also how sheep mate – which is with more than one ram to create competition. How awful for the poor ewes getting a ‘wham, bang, thank you ma’am’ once a year while the rams try to race each for the highest tally. Men!

I need to know more about hair dye, because I haven’t used any in years.

Italian cookery – yum. Not so difficult to track down some nice dishes.

Shearing Angora goats? Might need that or might not. What time of year do they get shorn?

A suitable medical condition for a small boy? (All the Mums in my local writers’ group immediately chorused ‘allergies!’)

It’ll all be in there, along with a lot more, but lightly sprinkled throughout to create some atmosphere and a sense of place while Mack and Becca spend time together and try not to be the first to fall in love.

And crutches! It was really handy getting my knee-joint replaced last year because that’s what set the whole story going. Goodness, romance-writers’ brains are strange places…