After leaving Amsterdam, my head full of all the things I’d learned at the SCBWI Europolitan Conference, we headed to Paris to spend time researching for my next book.
This one is a YA adventure set in Paris called Paris Hunting. It’s about a girl who goes hunting for clues to a World War 2 family mystery in Paris, and she ends up being the hunted. It’s pure adventure and it is a lot of fun to write.
There are also many large and beautiful parks where my characters can encounter danger – and these were easy to explore and photograph.
But my plot necessitated that I set my story in a museum. I didn’t want to use the Louvre. I was looking for somewhere more quirky and I found it. It was a small, eclectic museum, quaint and heavily guarded.
It wasn’t till I spoke to my writer’s group when I got back home that I realised that this last piece of research could have got me arrested.
Working out how my character would break in and out of the museum necessitated lots of note taking and photos. I wanted my writing to be authentic. I didn’t want readers to visit the museum and say, ‘that could never have happened’.
I am now writing the scenes while the setting is still fresh in my head – and so is the anxiety I felt while doing this research, particularly in a place where they spoke no English and I spoke no French and my actions may have been very difficult to explain – except to another writer who knows the lengths that must be gone to in order to make a setting believable.
1. Always take someone with you who can keep watch – and bail you out of jail if necessary.
2. Take someone who speaks the language so they can explain things for you.
3. Do as much pre-research as you can so you can be focussed in your information gathering and minimise the time you spend in a potentially risky situation.
4. Carry proof that you are a writer and perhaps a story outline to prove your need for research is genuine.
5. Be confident in what you are doing (even if you have to fake it). Remember that your motives are purely harmless and proceed with confidence – this is less likely to arouse suspicion.
I’m off to work on Paris Hunting. But if you have a story of where research nearly landed or did land you in trouble, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments section of this post.