The research for Perceval is now done, unless I need to update or double-check something, which seems to happen more often than not.
The research for Perceval’s Shadow is about half done. I need to finish location research (Buenos Aires, Copenhagen) and get the answers to my specific questions about the new Concert Hall (opens mid-2008) on Amager Island in Copenhagen. I’ll try the Danish National Symphony’s PR person or the architect. Completed research for this novel: half for locations, trauma and treatment of gunshot wounds.
Ongoing Research: When I began work on the second novel’s first draft over a year ago, I delved into more research on conductors and conducting. All the basic research on this topic I’d finished long ago for the first novel. But when Perceval turned into more than one novel, I realized that Evan needed to think about his career and repertoire more. That led me to begin researching career building and repertoire building in a conductor’s life, especially younger conductors who are working to establish themselves. Initially, I talked with a source at the Minnesota Orchestra for her ideas and thoughts. I decided to hold off on interviewing more conductors, unless I have specific questions for a specific conductor, because I think I can get the information I need through Musical America online. Google searches, tracking orchestras’ seasons (especially orchestras in the market for a new music director), and tracking a group of young conductors in different stages of their careers. This research is periodic — usually about once a month I check on the conductors and orchestras — and will continue for another year, I think. I am very appreciative of the conductors who have websites and post their schedules on them.
I began the research for Perceval in Love this past summer. The novel opens with Evan in Helsinki, conducting at Finlandia Hall — I have been to Helsinki on my way to Moscow, a one-day layover, and walked around Finlandia Hall, but I needed a conductor’s point of view, preferably a Finnish conductor who also knew Helsinki well. So, last July I interviewed Osmo Vanska (there are 2 dots over each “a” in his last name), Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra. He provided me with some great material about Helsinki and Finlandia Hall, giving me ideas to check out online. He’s a friendly, earnest guy, very thorough, and he was generous to me with his time. When I conduct interviews for the novels, it is for background research and I don’t collect quotes. I am following up on the information Mr. Vanska gave me, and I’ve already submitted follow-up questions to him which he answered in a day. I am almost finished with the Finnish part of the novel. The other location is St. Petersburg, Russia, which I have also visited and read about extensively. I have plans for more reading and an interview with an acquaintance and fellow writer who visits the city on a regular basis. Other research topics may arise during the work on the first draft.
Researching for the future: My initial research involved reading books by futurologists such as A Short History of the Future by W. Warren Wagar to get an idea of how to approach developing my own future world. This is an interesting area of research that I dip into again once in a while. Setting the novels in the future also gives me some leeway regarding locations but can create headaches too. I have no crystal ball or special link to the future! But it’s fun to create a future world by extrapolating trends and events.
My view on research: I enjoy research and find it interesting. But it must not overwhelm the story or my life. The most efficient way to do research I’ve found is to write the first draft before doing the research. The first draft will show me what I need to find out.