If writers stuck to that very limited advice to write what we (already) know, most of us would run out of stories very quickly. Luckily, most of us spend more time writing what we could learn or, even better, writing what we would like to learn. For example, Michaeline spent much of January researching fun and fabulous stuff about the end of the 19th century. My of most recent projects – the series of Victorian-era romances – have me going back even further than that.
If one didn’t know better and thought I was only writing what I already know, one would possibly have to conclude that I have a gambling problem, because 21st century or 19th century, I seem to have a fascination with heroines who are card sharks. In my Women’s Fiction book My Girls, one of the three leading ladies (Sarah) has a photographic memory for numbers and patterns, making her hell on wheels at a Blackjack table.
The idea for this actually came to me because I have a friend whose mind actually works this way. He travels to Vegas on occasion and when he does, he always wins enough to cover his trip, including the cost of some really nice meals and a few expensive shows. My friend always walks away from the table when he’s comfortably up on his winnings. Sarah is not quite so wise and bets way too much of her and her friends’ money, and as you can imagine, ‘plot devices ensue’, which in this case means losing big.
In addition to picking my friend’s very interesting brain, research for My Girls included studying strategies and cheat sheets you can actually take with you to the tables (strategizing Blackjack is harder than it sounds). I also watched a fascinating documentary about card-counting Christians (yes, you read that right). And of course there had to be a trip, in this case, to – where else? – sin city itself (AstroTurf in lieu of grass – of course! but I’d never considered it before visiting Vegas).
For the Victorian series, more specifically, the second book in the series, tentatively titled The Lady’s Wager, I won’t be taking a trip to Victorian England, although a trip to London might very well be in order some time in the next few years. But I have gone down the slippery slope of buying books on Regency-/post-Regency-era gambling, including The Georgian Art of Gambling, which I just had to have after seeing it at Justine’s house. At this point, it looks like the most likely games for my rather risque heroine to play are Faro or Rouge et Noir, which sounds so much naughtier than Red and Black. Now I just have to figure out how to card count or strategize or even downright cheat in those games. Or I should say, how my heroine will do those things, because, really, I don’t have a gambling problem. Apparently, I just like to write about them.
So, while Michaeline and I have been sloshing about in the 19th century and I’ve been cheating at cards, what have you been reading/researching/learning, for fun or for your writing?