Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Call It Research : : Anne McAllister

It's a treat to be back at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs! I've stopped by and read plenty of other writers' blogs here this year, but I haven't written one myself because life has just grabbed me and pulled me in other directions (mostly out west to see new grandchildren, but I've been writing, too)

Anyway, I've missed you, and I'm glad to be back. I expect to be here once a month now -- and I hope life cooperates. I'm counting on it.

I've just started a new book -- and I'm deep into the best part which, trust me, is not the writing.

The best part for me is always the research. It's what Twyla Tharp calls 'scratching' in her wonderful inspiring book, The Creative Habit. It's also a bit of 'hunting and gathering' as far as I'm concerned.

Someone says something which leads to an idea, which leads to a bit of reading which leads to talking to someone which leads to another idea, which leads to maybe a trip some place or a bunch of inter-library loans or an interview with a physicist or a weekend at bull-riding school or an afternoon at a trendy Upper East Side beauty salon.

The impetus for this particular trip began eleven or twelve years ago when I was casting about for a hero for one of my cowboy books for Silhouette.

My friend Lucy Gordon and I were having dinner in Bath, England and discussing this difficult problem -- which guy was most appealing -- and she said thoughtfully, "You ought to have a look at that Australian playing in Oklahoma in London right now."

And I said, "Uh-huh," or words to that effect.

Mostly what I thought was, "Yeah, right," in the time-honored tone reserved for double-positives that equal negatives.

My dad was born in Oklahoma. So was his dad. So was his grandmother. I know Oklahoma. Aussies don't do Oklahoma, even when it's a musical, not a state.

But this one did.

His name, in case you don't remember back that far, is Hugh Jackman.

And he played Curly very well indeed. He jumped right up to the top of my hero list. Then Kate Walker got me a copy of that wonderful Australian film Paperback Hero in which Mr Jackman plays a romance writer who can't bring himself to admit he's doing any such thing -- and I never looked back.

Hugh has, as those who attended the Romance Writers of New Zealand and the Romance Writers of Australia conferences in 2004 know, evolved into a serious research object.

And the thing is, of course, you can never do too much research.

Which is why I'm going to New York tomorrow. And on Thursday it's why I'll be heading down to Broadway to attend the play A Steady Rain -- a two man production starring Hugh Jackman and that blond guy -- you know the one -- Daniel Craig. As Chicago cops.

How tortuous the path has been. And twelve years in process. Can research get any tougher?

Don't answer that.

Just think good thoughts -- and hope for no stand-ins and lots of, um, inspiration.

My friend Nancy the cat slayer (just kidding, she doesn't really, but Kate Walker and I have an incriminating photo that makes it looks as if she does) is coming along with me. The Prof (that would be the man I'm married to) is teaching (yes, he retired, but it lasted only about seven hours) and he can't go. So Nancy and I double-dating with Hugh and Dan.

Well, perhaps not. I write fiction, after all.

But I'm looking forward to the play -- er, research -- as you can imagine. I think I could even learn to appreciate blonds.

Equally -- well, almost equally -- I'm looking forward to my interview with the physicist and my prowl around Columbia University and my dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant and whatever else happens over the next week.

It's all going to bring my new book to life. I'm not sure exactly how yet -- but it will come to me. It always does.

If you write, what's your favorite part of the process?

If you're a reader, what have you read that made you want to broaden your horizons and go somewhere or do something you've never done before? What was it -- and did you do it?

Did it involve Hugh and Dan?????


Caroline Storer said...

Hi Anne. Great blog! How lovely to get to see Hugh and Daniel - both at the same time. Good luck with your "research"! Take care. Caroline x

Anne McAllister said...

Thanks, Caroline! I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

Mint said...

As a reader I like to stretch my boundaries. In the past I was pretty much locked in to series and contemporary romance but I've branched out to paranormal,historical and other genres that I would not have tried in the past. I always enjoy your books, loved Antonides' Forbidden Wife.

Linda Henderson

Mary said...

Great blog and great question. I think that the first time I read a highland romance and had the scottish castles described in a book, was the first time I really wanted to go visit them for myself. Not to mention all those good looking kilt wearing, scottish men with those accents. Whew!

Anne McAllister said...

Linda, I agree about stretching boundaries as a reader. I still don't much like werewolves and vampires, but a good writer can pretty much take me anywhere. Thanks for your kind words about Antonides Forbidden Wife. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Mary, I wouldn't mind seeing Scotland, either. I've flown over it more times than I can count -- and I've plenty of Scottish ancestors, of course -- but I've never been on the ground there. It would be great. I saw men in kilts in Cornwall, actually. So, surprisingly, I didn't need to go north for that.

Emmanuelle said...

Have a nice trip !!
(and thanks for the info on The paperback Hero, I've never heard of it and I definitly need to check it out !!)

Armenia said...

I would love to do that kind of research. Hugh Jackman was wonderful in Kate and Leopold. I didn't know about the Paper Hero, now I'll have to find this movie.

Anne McAllister said...

Emmanuelle, Paperback Hero is a lovely fresh little film. Sparkling characters and a lot of the Australian outback and even more Hugh. What's not to love?

Armenia, yes, I liked Hugh a lot in Kate and Leopold. He made me want to run right out and write an historical! I liked Liev Schreiber in that, too, and having him and Hugh in Wolverine is rather like having Hugh and Dan on Broadway -- except I can watch it over and over.

Virginia said...

Thanks for the great post. There's no such thing as too much Hugh! gcwhiskas at aol dot com