Please help me welcome Patrick Canning to the blog as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. I reviewed his book, The Colonel and The Bee last Sunday, and Patrick is here to share a bit about his research for that book. Research is such an important part of writing, and sometimes it is so much fun we almost get lost in that phase of the writing process. I suspect that Patrick walked dangerously close to that edge. 🙂
I don’t know what Patrick’s favorite beverage is, but the Colonel likes strong coffee with lots of sugar. Nineteen sugar cubes to be exact. I’ve convinced him, the Colonel, to share some of his stash with us, so we can put one or two in a drink of our own choice. My coffee is particularly strong today, so I will take two. You may take as many as you would like.
Hi Maryann, I really appreciate the opportunity to be featured on your blog, and thanks for the very nice review you did for my book. I’m so happy you enjoyed the story. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite stories, so if my book brings that to mind, that is quite an honor.
Now, about the research.
The word ‘research’ probably conjures up images of dusty library archives, meticulously sourced bibliographies, and maybe even microfiche (if you’re of a certain age). But research for The Colonel and the Bee was some of the most fun I’ve had in writing a book.
Once I had my idea: a destitute acrobat and a flower-obsessed adventurer explore the world of the early 19th Century in a fantastically large hot air balloon, I needed some help filling in the details. The story wouldn’t be beholden to reality at every turn, but I’ve always thought a measure of science makes even the most outlandish fantasy that much better. It was time to do some research.
While I admit going to the Wikipedia well more than I should, I quickly found many other amazing sources of information. Ballooning by C. H. Gibbs-Smith, an antiquated look at the world of hot air ballooning before 1946, provided some great aeronautical theory and history of ballooning. In an ill-visited corner of the upper floor of The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles (a great place to check out if you’re ever in LA), I discovered Forty Favorite Flowers by Beverley Nichols, a 1970s guide to curious flowers and how they fare in an English garden.
Aside from having a great old book smell, Forty Favorite Flowers helped bring the Colonel’s extensive horticultural knowledge into focus. A dictionary of Victorian slang delivered gems like “enthuzimuzzy” (much ado about nothing) and “butter upon bacon” (excessive extravagance), but it was Lina Rivera, The Colonel and the Bee’s editor, who contributed what is probably my favorite bit of Victorian wordage: “chuckaboo” (friend).
By far the most thrilling and enjoyable bit of research was a trip in a real hot air balloon. I took note of all the sensations and emotions that came with the unique way of flying, and paid close attention to the charismatic British pilot’s manner of speaking (“The crown line’s in a bit of a state!” and “A woman can understand a compliment in any language, can’t they?”).
The difficulty in controlling a craft as unwieldy as a hot air balloon was made clear with our unscheduled landing on a golf course. Luckily, the irate owner was placated with a handy bottle of champagne.
Imagination might do most of the leg work when it comes to fiction, but I hope all these real-world details help further color the world Beatrix and the Colonel explore, and make for a more engaging and exciting read.
A peculiar explorer and downtrodden acrobat travel the globe on a building-sized hot-air balloon, racing against a menagerie of deadly treasure hunters to solve a riddle and locate the precious artifact it promises.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick spends as much time as possible turning coffee into collections of words that look like books, shorts, and screenplays. Most of his stories attempt to look for the meaning of life in an adventurous way, and often employ humor, important since the search usually doesn’t turn up much. He is scared to use semi colons and rarely puts his seat back on airplanes.
You can find out more about Patrick and his other books on his Amazon Author Page
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Authors, what is the most fun you’ve had doing research? One of my favorite days researching for my Seasons Mystery Series was spent at the Dallas Police Department, learning the specifics of how that department works.