Research for Writing, a Guest Post by Susanna Beard, author of Dare to Remember

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Anyone who regularly visits Linda’s Book Bag will know that I love a psychological thriller and so I’m delighted today to welcome Susanna Beard, author of Dare To Remember, to tell us all about her research for writing and to be part of the launch celebrations.

Dare To Remember was published by Legend Press on 1 February 2017 and is available for purchase on Amazon.

Dare To Remember

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Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her badly injured and her best friend dead, Lisa flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley.

However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions, too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And what really happened that night?

As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realises that there’s another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can’t escape from. A truth that may have been right in front of her all along.

Research for Writing

A Guest Post by Susanna Beard

When I was around 17 years old, I mentioned to my father that I’d like to write a novel. I’m not sure whether I was thinking about a career in writing, or if I was simply interested in getting a book published, but I’d always enjoyed creative writing in my English classes at school, and relished using my imagination to make up stories.

My father’s response was to say: “Don’t be silly. You won’t be able to write a novel. There’s so much research to do.” I remember at the time thinking: “Well I like research, so what’s so difficult about that?” Anyway the end result was that I didn’t consider writing as a career, though ultimately I found one which required me to write every day – sometimes all day. I don’t know if I would have taken up novel writing much earlier if my father hadn’t said that, and I don’t blame him for what he said. He had a strange and deep reverence for books; perhaps he just didn’t think that ‘ordinary’ people had the ability to enter that world.

Anyway, when I wrote Dare to Remember, my first novel, I didn’t think much about research: my story is based somewhere in England, my towns, cities and villages are unnamed, coming from my imagination. My characters, too, are fictional. But my plot did need research – and yes, I did very much enjoy the learning process.

Having decided that my protagonist, Lisa, would be suffering from PTSD, I needed to research both the condition and the treatment. I did so via a combination of reading recommended books and interviewing expert, qualified therapists with experience of treating the disorder. This gave me a body of notes, and quotes, and in particular vocabulary and language which were incorporated into my story – not by any means in their entirety, but just enough to provide authenticity. For instance, Lisa eventually recovers from her memory loss in a – cathartic – therapy session, so it was important to know how both therapist and patient would be likely to react.

In her efforts to rebalance her life and to remember the details of the event that almost killed her, Lisa decides to meet her attacker – a young man called Fergus, who is in prison for his crimes. For me, this meant researching restorative justice – the process whereby offenders are helped to rehabilitate through reconciliation with victims. This felt a little daunting as I have no background in law, but it was important for Lisa to gain perspective on the crime and the opportunity for closure.

I found that being an author allowed me access to the experts in a non-threatening way, and, as well as researching online, I met with both the Restorative Justice Council and Victim Support to get an insight into the process. This gave me the knowledge and understanding I needed to make those scenes involving Lisa’s decision to pursue that route convincing.

It’s interesting how you can put many hours into research, only to find that very little detail actually makes it into your story. And that’s the right way to use your research. Like character development, it’s the knowledge and understanding behind the scenes that’s important. It gives you the confidence to hint at a deeper expertise, to use the right words, to demonstrate understanding without the need to explain. Which, I suppose, in a way brings us back to ‘show, not tell.’ But that’s another story.

About Susanna Beard

susanna-beard

Susanna lives in Marlow, Buckinghamshire with her two sons and two dogs. She has worked in public relations and marketing since her twenties. As well as walking and adventures, Susanna loves tennis, skiing and hanging out with friends. Dare to Remember is her first novel.

You can follow Susanna on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

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