Reader Question: How Do You Do Your Research?

This reader question and answer originally ran in my May newsletter. If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, and get all the posts mailed directly to you, sign up here. We also do monthly giveaways and have “sneak peeks” at chapters from upcoming books.

This question is from my book club friend (and also beta reader) MaryAnn Perdue:


Q: How do you do your research before writing a book (to learn about surfing or whale-watching or whatever the book features)?

A: I do spend a lot of time on research! For The Red Bikini, I had to learn a LOT about surfing! I don’t surf myself, so I was learning from the ground up. (Or would that be “the sand up”?) However, I do live in the middle of one of the surfing capitals of the world — Orange County, California — so it wasn’t hard to find friends who surf (as well as my hubby, son, boss, director – I talked to everyone who I knew owned a surfboard, which is a surprisingly huge number of people).

Additionally, I watched a lot of movies and documentaries (Endless Summer, Step Into Liquid, etc.) for some of the history and inspiration for some of the characters.

And I read my husband’s subscription to Surfer magazine cover-to-cover EVERY MONTH FOR TWO YEARS! Ha, ha. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Month.

That alone might have been the greatest source because the feedback was so natural and constant, over a two-year period. I learned a lot about the everyday surf culture, the way pro surfers live and travel, their most common backgrounds, the way they feel about the industry, the type of music they listen to, the way they talk to each other. It was fun.

My next book, Ten Good Reasons, features a whale-watcher, and that involved a whole ‘nother year of research. I’ll tell more about that soon!


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