Sunday, February 24, 2008

I Love My Job

By Kate

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been immersing myself in research for my new Bibliophile Mystery series. Last week, I spent two days at the annual Antiquarian Book Fair in Los Angeles, where booksellers from all over the world meet to buy, sell and trade their treasures.

I attended two workshops on book collecting and restoration, then wandered through the hundreds of stalls and kiosks perusing exquisitely bound editions of William Shakespeare and Walt Whitman and Jane Austen. There were books on display that were so ancient, they looked like petrified forest mushrooms, as well as a collection of clever, three-dimensional, accordion-style books designed by a contemporary Parisian artist. First editions of mysteries by Raymond Chandler and Earl Stanley Garner sat alongside a nicely preserved, full set of Agatha Christie’s mysteries.

Then this weekend, my research brought me to San Francisco where I spent the last two days wandering around my heroine’s neighborhood, getting the lay of the land, soaking up the local color, searching out the perfect location for a murder—or two, and driving up to Sonoma County where my heroine was raised.

Oh, and the wine tasting I attended was a necessary part of my character development. ;-)

I’m also taking a two-day class on bookbinding at the San Francisco Center for the Book. That’s right, I’m not just writing a book, I’m making a book!

Shortly after I return home, I’ll be descending into the deadline cave where I’ll stay for the next month in order to finish my book. But for now, I’m writing this post while sitting at the restaurant bar, sipping a lovely cabernet and nibbling on bread dipped in olive oil as I wait for my steak and potato. Sigh. The things we do for our craft!

If you could choose the perfect spot to do research, where would you go? Are there books you choose simply because you love the setting? Do you find yourself drawn to a particular occupation of the main character? And how do you like your steak prepared? Or would you prefer the vegetarian selections? :-)

P.S. Vote for Trish!!!


Christine Wells said...


Christine Wells said...

Kate, I envy you that research trip! It all sounds fascinating. Fantastic stuff! Best of luck with finishing your book, too. I'm sure you'll be inspired by your travels.

There are so many places in England I'd like to go to research my books, I'd hardly know where to start. Probably my first choice would be staying at a country estate where the family is still in residence and delving into their archives. Or perhaps spending time wallowing in Georgette Heyer's research papers--that would be amazing. Thanks for a great post!

Oh, and the GR decided he'd like to stay in the sunshine awhile.*g*


Kate Carlisle said...

Christine? Woo hoo!!! You got him!! Clearly, the GR is settling in for the season!

Gillian Layne said...

Go Christine! :) Obviously you're treating him well. Actually, I'd glue some feathers on myself in order to find a bit of sunshine at this point! ;)

Kate, I can't wait for your series. It's a brilliant concept, and right up my alley. Maybe you can post some pics of your book making process?

Egypt, hands down. My current manuscript isn't set there, of course, but I have one half-finished that is, and I'd love to spend two weeks there with pen and paper in hand, polishing it off. Maybe when the kiddos are older....

I love writing scholars--nineteenth century geeks.

I voted for Trish!Her story deserves to win! Of course, having make it this far, she's a huge winner already.

oh--the steak. my folks raise cattle, so that's an important question! Medium rare, grilled tips, A-1 sauce.

Kirsten said...

Mmm, what a lovely, warm and sunny looking post, Kate!

I just got tickets and made reservations to a trip to LA for research for my latest MIP. However, I must confess this isn't my dream spot to vacation. I'm a traffic- and crowd-phobe, and my husband is even worse than I am, so LA is closer to the 9th Circle of Hell than a dream vacation spot. (I know, you LA girl, that some folks love it! But it's not for me! ;-) ) But I love the idea of actually committing to a research trip. It will be my first one.

The second book in my YA series will be set partly on the Oregon Coast, and I'll need to spend some serious time out there to get it right. Now that's much more up my alley.

We're also taking a trip to Sanibel Island in June for a family reunion, and the pictures are so dreamy looking I thought perhpas I'd end up setting my naughty fairy book there. Should be great fun, and maybe then I'd need a return trip later! :-)

Enjoy the research, Kate, and Gillian has a great suggestion--post some pictures of your book binding project!


jo robertson said...

Whoop dee doo, Christine!

Kate, now THAT'S the perfect research trip to me. Combining interesting facts and tidbits with the ambience of exciting places.

I agree with Gillian that your book has a fascinating, fresh premise. Can't wait to read it.

I'm with you on soaking up the atmosphere of the place. Scotland was my favorite with its warm feeling of "being home," and friendly people.

My next stop is Paris, I hope. I've never been and long to go.

Jane said...

I love SF as a setting. I've been there only once but it was amazing. Barbara Freethy sets a lot of her books there. Like Gillian, I would choose Egypt as my research spot. The rich history and culture is a major draw. I like my steak medium well with tons of au jus.

Kate Carlisle said...

Whew, made it back! All this traveling and wining and dining--I mean, researching!--is exhausting. ;-)

Christine, I know you'll make it to England one of these days. It's got to be thrilling to wander through the archives of people and places you're so familiar with through the research you've already done from afar. Like visiting old friends!

Just talking about it give me the urge to go back there myself. I love England and Scotland. I've got to find a way to set a book there. ;-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Gillian! Funny you should mention pictures. I was taking a bunch yesterday as I was making my book and I'll take some more today, then try to post them somewhere. It's really a fascinating class.

I love any book on Egyptology! Especially mysteries. Elizabeth Peters, anyone? Love that series. And I do love a hunky/geeky scholarly hero. :-)

And you're so right about Trish. She's got to win!!

Kate Carlisle said...

And Gillian, LOL on gluing feathers on yourself! Are you dealing with horrible weather? We've had lots of rain out here but nothing too nasty so far. Hope the sun comes out soon so we don't have to resort to feathers!

Kate Carlisle said...

Inara, I had to laugh at your choice of city to visit for resarch purposes. Trust me, I wouldn't necessarily choose LA either! But I swear there are some beautiful parts of the city so when you're planning your trip, let me know. I'll steer you away from the drudgey parts, promise!

Ah, the Oregon coast is much more exciting to think about. I would love to wander around for a few weeks and have always pictured setting a gothic novel there.

A naughty fairy book set on Sanibel Island? I love it!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Jo, we are in complete agreement about Scotland! I simply love it there. And you will fall in love with Paris. It's the most beautiful, charming city--and user friendly. I don't think it's possible to get lost there. So many landmarks everywhere, and hey, a river runs right through it. D'oh!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Jane, I love SF as a setting, too. Lots of mystery writers set their stories here so I'm happy to be joining their ranks. :-)

Your steak's coming right up! LOL

Maureen Child said...

Great post, Kate! my favorite spot for research? Ireland. No, wait, Scotland. Well, either one of favorite spots in the world!

Can't wait to see the books you made!

Linda said...


Your post made me swoon! I love books so much I became a librarian. SF is a great place to place a book (I also live in the Bay Area) - it has everything and the area surrounding provides so much more, like wine tasting! Though I could not get into the full British Library in London, I do love the antiquarian book room. I literally got chills to see the handwritten Jane Eyre turned to the page where there is my favorite line: Oh, Jane! You strange, almost unearthly thing. I think I had better set my books wherever I want to visit! So far, my trilogy (WIP) is set in the Napa Valley - not a bad research trip!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Kate, I have chosen books because of their location. I love books about Scotland, Ireland, and England. I have never picked up books solely on the occupation of a character but I am often intrigued by them. I think that is an area that can show very quickly how well an author researches.
Ah, steak, I am a total carnivore (I once had a boyfriend and his nickname for me was T-Rex), I like my steaks medium rare to rare depending on the cut. I like potatoes in just about any form to go with them but prefer the garlic mashed potatoes. No sauce of any kind, I don't want anything to mask the flavor of the meat. I always have a side of buttered mushrooms too. Steamed broccoli to make me believe I am eating healthy.
Oh, thank you Kate, now I am starved!

doglady said...

Kate, that sounds like a dream research trip! I LOVE old books. What a great idea for a series. I cannot wait. However, a book event like you attended would be a DISASTER for my finances!

Wow, Christine, we will have to give you the Perfect GR Hostess Award if he keeps coming back to you like this! Then again, who wouldn't want to spend a few weeks in Oz in the summer? Especially when it is cold and rainy here!

My ideal research trip would be to return to England, of course. I would love to spend some time in the little village where we lived as I intend to use it as the model for the Regency village in my St. Andrews family series. Of course that isn't my only motive. I still have friends there after 40 years and I want to see them!

Then I would love to just wander around some of the country estates and soak up the feel of those elegant places.

Then off to London to get a feel for what life might have been like there in the Regency.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Kate - Your research trip sounds fabulous. I've never blund a book myself, but I have several friends in the art community who have. They say watch those glue fumes - that stuff can be seriously toxic.

I think Christine and I should split expenses and research England/Scotland & Ireland. So much to see and so much inspiration there. I have a partial book set in New Orleans, wouldn't mind spending time in the garden district there. I'm thinking ahead to a book placed in Savannah, GA. May have to travel back that way and do some serious exploration.

I'm with Gillian on steak preparation, although I also like mine with blue cheese crumbled on top & a side of buttered mushrooms. Unfortunately, none of that is one "the diet". (Lord, I wish I had been raised a skinny woman *g*.

Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT post, Kate!
Glad you made it home before the storms got too bad. UGH!

As rainy and cold as it has been here lately (and San Francisco too) I think I need to go back to Maui (my fave of the Hawaiian Islands) and "research" a future book! Seriously, I'm thinking my Irish characters need to spend their honeymoon on Maui. Or maybe Tahiti... I haven't been there yet.


Anna Campbell said...

Goodness, Christine, you must treat that Rooster Right!!! Congratulations! By the way, did everyone see Christine's brilliant post over at Romancing the Blog this weekend? Really thought provoking.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Gillian, can I come and stay with you? I love the sound of how you do your steak. My parents were both country people so meat was a big thing in our house - and I'm still a carnivore. Definitely medium rare but seared on the outside. And I love scholar heroes too - love me a good geek!

Christine, I'm with you - a writer in residence post at a stately home or a Scottish estate. Either would suit me fine.

Kate, love the post. You're right - the research is one of the fun parts of this gig. I love the book research too!

Anna Campbell said...

Plenty of old books in the UK, Kate! Shouldn't be too hard to work out a story set there. Did you know that Hay-on-Wye was the secondhand book capital of the world?

Anna Campbell said...

Hiya Linda! Lovely to see you here. I got goosebumps in the British Library too and ended up crying over Scott's diary. It's a place every writer should visit at least once in their life. And it's free which is something you can't say often in very expensive London!

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Dianna, if Gillian refuses to feed this poor starving writer, maybe you can step up to the plate? Plate, geddit?!!! Groan!

terrio said...

Congrats, Christine! Where do I get an "I want the GR!" button to wear at Nationals?

Good to see Anna is up to her old tricks. *snort* Aunty beat me to it, I'd love to spend some research time in Hawaii. Or vacation time but having the bonus of an excuse to go couldn't hurt.

The Pacific Northwest sounds wonderful as well. I've read some books set there and it's on my list of places I have to visit. Never been anywhere near the west coast but I'm looking forward to seeing at least a little of San Fran in August.

Love my steak medium well and all this talk made think of having some for dinner - until Donna brought up the diet thing. *grumble grumble* Stupid metabolism....

Christine Wells said...

Donna, I'd be happy to split expenses with you!

Foanna, thanks so much for mentioning RTB. My post seemed to have stirred up a hornet's nest, hasn't it? Nearly choked when I saw Nora Roberts' comment.

Terrio, what a grand idea! We must make us a GR button.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Actually, Dianna, if Gillian refuses to feed this poor starving writer, maybe you can step up to the plate? Plate, geddit?!!! Groan!
Anna, I am sure Gillian wouldn't turn you down but if "plate get's too full" with everyone else at her table I would be more than happy to step up to the "plate". *eg*
There Miss Pun Queen. I meet your plate and raise you one.

Gillian Layne said...

I'm so very glad it's understood that any meeting of these minds will take place around a well-filled table....Anna, when we meet again, I'd be thrilled if it were over a steak.

And you guys are killing me with this talk of mushrooms. Do you grill yours? I swear, there is nothing better than grilled mushrooms...along with huge slices of grilled onion, basted in olive oil and garlic salt. ;)

doglady said...

You folks are making me hungry for a big fat juicy t-bone! And then a long sojourn to the British Library followed by a trip to Hay on Wye and a long stint as the writer in residence at Chatsworth. Sounds like the ideal dream existence! Lets all meet at Gillian's to discuss it.

My steak? Medium well if you please soaked in butter with a hint of garlic.

Now Terrio, the buttons with "I Want the Golden Rooster" on them sound great. We must also have buttons that say "I won the Golden Rooster" or "Golden Rooster Mama" or my favorite, FoAnna's "I am a Rotten Rooster Napper!"

Off to Romancing the Blog to see what kind of trouble Christine is stirring up!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey gang, sorry I was in class all day but now I'm back! And y'all are making me hungry now!!

Maureen, hi!! Thanks for coming around! We're so honored to have you in the Lair! And there's another vote for Scotland. I've never been to Ireland, I'm ashamed to say. Must go there next year.

Hi Linda, I'm a huge fan of librarians! I've met so many librarians since I started this book because of the many book conservators and restorers who start out in Library Science. And you're from the Bay Area? And you get to do research in Napa? I'm just plain jealous of you!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey T-Rex! I mean Dianna, of course! Garlic mashed potatoes, buttered mushrooms...yum!

Doglady, your ideal research trip sounds wonderful. And I really hope we all get a chance to read your St. Andrews family series someday soon!

Donna, I like your many locations for books. I hope you get the chance to visit them all. And blue cheese on your steak? Oh, heaven! But did you have to bring up the "D" word? LOL

Kate Carlisle said...

Aunty, there just aren't enough books set in Tahiti! Can't wait to see what you come up with. ;-)

Hi Anna! Glad you mentioned our own Christine's fabulous post at Romancing the Blog this weekend. Hope everyone got a chance to check it out.

I can see I'm going to have to visit Hay-on-Wye and also spend a day at the British Library next time I'm over there. Sounds incredible!

Kate Carlisle said...

Terrio, I hope you have a chance to venture out of San Francisco to see a bit more of the west coast. It really is beautiful.

Gillian, there you go, making my mouth water all over again. ;-) Did you hear we're all meeting at your place for steaks? Yeah!

And Terrio and Doglady, brilliant thoughts on the Golden Rooster buttons!

Joan said...

Ok, ok. Ya'll twisted my arm.

I'll gladly be your escort for any and all Ireland trips. I'll even drive....

But you have to take turns screaming "Watch out for that sheep!"

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Kate, Donna did use that 4 letter word right here on the blog! Here I had visions of juicy steak and mushrooms and butter and all that good stuff then the next thing I knew there was the vision of a rice cake........ ewwwwww! My poor little carnivorous soul just about shriveled up. ****Dianna, going in search of something to eat now!*******

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

But you have to take turns screaming "Watch out for that sheep!"
Joan, only the one riding shotgun, the rest of us will be in the back raiding the picnic basket.

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL Dianna, I appreciate your horror at the mention of the "D" word. Hope you find something delicious to mask the shock!

All right, Joanie! We'll take you up on that tour guide gig!

Cheers, all!