24 May 2011

I’ve been doing research for this book, and I mention it for two reasons: the first is that this is a relatively new process and the second is that some of the things I’m learning are fascinating. To me, at least.

I have always been reluctant to research things for a novel because it seemed odd to me. A novel is full of made-up things, so what’s the point in peppering it with a bunch of facts? I have come to the realization that actually, that’s not the point of research. For me, anyhow. For me it’s about character development and finding that one peculiar thing, detail, moment, whatever, that really sheds light on something within the novel. With my book Carbunckle’s Flight I dutifully researched pigeon racing and that helped me to create a pigeon loft that was above and beyond. Without knowing just how much one could spend on such a structure, and what bells and whistles could be included… well, let’s just say that fact is stranger than fiction.

With this novel, one of the things I’m finding difficult is understanding the mindset of someone who actively courts attention. Let me explain: I do like being the centre of attention, but in a very different way from Heather. I like my work to draw attention to me, and sometimes at parties, after a few too many cans of beer I do like to be the star of the show. But, the idea of being a celebrity in the way Heather aspires to is very, very difficult for me to understand – and if I don’t get it, it’s going to be hard to write her character convincingly. So I did – and am still doing – my research.

Herewith are a few gems:

From the book Illusions of Immortality: A psychology of Fame & Celebrity by David Giles

p132 Celebrity fans are fans of nothing more than a single individual; it is that person who occupies the central role in their life and commands more time, attention and devotion than most people lavish on a romantic partner.

That’s the sort of singular devotion Heather wants from her fans and audience.

Another great book is Look At Me! The Fame Motive from Childhood to Death by Orville Gilbert Brim

p12 Second phase of stalking as social construction, from 1989 – 1991, was marked by the increasing use of the term stalker, usually in the form of ‘star stalkers’. These were men and women who persistently followed and harassed the famous. The murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer by a disordered fan, Robert Bardo, gave a dramatic focus to this new construction… Victims were now celebrities.

I thought that, as part of her backstory, Heather might’ve watched a similar news scenario unfold, and that it would make a real impression on her, and also form part of the reason for her hiring a stalker of her own. The stalker would be the ultimate fame accessory, and if things really took a turn, she could cry victim and begin another fame-cycle all over again.

In and around all of that, I’m also researching The English. The novel is set in London, but being a Canuck I am very, very aware of the fact that I am not English and that there are certain things I need to get correct in order to write English characters. More on that in another post.