By Carrie Stuart Parks
Happy 4th of July! My new book, Formula of Deception, will have released yesterday. In it are some historical facts that I researched and I’d like to reflect on as we celebrate our independence.
A theme of my writing is to show how events of the past impact the present. Although I may start my research with books detailing the history of an event, the novel will focus on the ripple effect of that time (or belief system, as in my first four books.) Beyond books, I line up the people I need to interview that could shed the authentic touch.
Recent history—when I asked my husband where he’d like to go to research a novel, he immediately said Kodiak Island, Alaska. As my knowledge of this location was somewhere between zero and none, I knew I needed to do some reading. I found the material fascinating.
Selection of events—I like to put real events and locations into my novels, interesting bits that the reader can learn about, and Alaska had a boatload. As in the “forgotten war.” Although Korea is often referred to by that name, so is the Aleutian Campaign. It seems the Japanese invaded the Alaskan Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska in 1942. A submarine, the Grunion, was lost in the battle of Kiska, and the boat was undiscovered until recently. Those events sound like something I could weave into a novel. The story of the Grunion was especially touching—Fatal Dive, written by Peter F. Stevens—details the story and heroism and sacrifice of the captain and crew. It reminded me that our independence and freedom comes at a price.
Logistics—It’s not unusual for me to be doing the physical visits and research pretty close to the deadline of the book. Before that, I might not know the questions I needed answered. We wouldn’t be able to fly to Kodiak until June to do the physical research, with an August 1 deadline on the manuscript. That meant I had to have the bulk of the book written before heading up there and leave places where I could insert or correct information. I did as much research as I could by phone and email, but final interviews would be conducted in person. I have found almost every person I interviewed for this book as well as previous books to be excited to share their insight and knowledge with me.
I carry a blank book with me when I travel to record thoughts, interviews, timelines, and other details. A computer is nice, but I can’t use it a lot of time (during short flights, take-off and landings, during an interview where I’m sitting across a desk from someone, wandering around a WWII museum…you get the drift.)
Interviews—some appointments are made well in advance, but with the Kodiak book, I was on the phone making calls almost as soon as I landed. The police chief, Alaskan State Trooper, seafood processing plant, floatplanes all were arranged once we arrived. The questions I needed answered were written out so I wouldn’t forget anything.
ACFW—yes, ACFW played a role in this story! I met the remarkable and fabulous Voni Harris at the ACFW conference three years ago. She lives on Kodiak with her equally wonderful husband, Rich. For our visit, my husband, Rick, and I were shuttled about and treated like royalty—including dinner and worship at their church. We were able to go all the places I needed to see and folks I needed to talk to through these two gracious individuals.Fourth of July, history, and research come together in author Carrie Stuart Parks’ blog post. @CarrieParks #ACFWBlogs #writing #amwriting Click To Tweet
Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her novels in have garnered numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Inspys. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books.
Happy 4th of July, Carrie.
Excited to read your new one. Having recently read Portrait of Vengeance I’m keen to meet your new leading character. Even though I very much hope Gwen is waking you up at night telling you she has a new adventure for you to go on together.
How wonderful that you’ve become close friends with Voni and it was her friendship that helped you plot this new story.