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The Funny Thing About Research

By C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp

Every book requires research. You get this brilliant idea. You think it will work. You’re pretty sure you remember correctly, so you plan your plot around it. But, just in case you’re wrong, you start doing your research. You pull out the trusty encyclopedia, you go online to Wikipedia and other websites. You take notes. You talk to people.

And lo and behold. Your brilliant idea works.

Or not.

And sometimes you get lucky and find something that works better.

One of the things we really wanted to do in The Isis Collar was create a disease that would be of magical origin. But what sort of illness? Cathy called on a doctor friend of hers who is also a writer, and asked, “What sort of virus could be turned magical so that bad things would happen?”

He responded, “None of them.” Well, poo. That wasn’t very helpful. Then he said, “But what about a magical bacterium?” Oooh! We had talked about a number of things when the doctor commented that one of the bacteria scientists don’t really understand well is Mycobacterium leprae, which causes leprosy. It’s apparently very complex and a lot about how it functions and spreads still isn’t known. He said, “If ever there was a bacterium that could be considered magical, that’s the one.” It’s very slow moving as it infects the system, and symptoms may not occur for years after first exposure, so it’s really hard to track down where it came from or where it’s going next.

Hmm . . . mysterious, devastating, infectious. Add magic and speed it up, and how much better a threat could you get? And so a new plague was added to Celia’s world, one that was targeted at children.

But there was more research ahead of us. When we originally discussed the idea of having a magical artifact in this book, we were actually thinking of it as the Collar of Horus. Horus being a god of knowledge, after all, would likely have magical artifacts named for him. So the research started. We read about Horus, and he really was a pretty good fit. But then we read about Isis.

Isis, according to our research, was “originally the personification of the royal throne” and the goddess of magic. Since our collar was used to drain magic from mages, we decided this artifact had been created to ensure that the Pharaoh was always the most powerful magical person in the room. Plus, Isis was the goddess who protected children and the downtrodden. Thus, logically, she would be very unhappy with someone who used her tool to hurt children.

It didn’t take long for us to realize Isis was a much better fit for our collar than Horus.

The funny thing about research is that most of the time, readers will never know how much the writer has done . . . but they’ll absolutely know it if the writer doesn’t do the work. It shows. So we always do our homework. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we’re not doing research for its own sake—learning something new is such fun—and sometimes, the things we find take our stories and characters in directions that surprise even us.

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Related Link: Three of The Blood Singer Novels eBooks now available for $2.99 each

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From the Tor/Forge March newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.

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  1. March 5, 2012 at 10:54 am

    So very true. What’s really aggravating is when you do a great deal of research and later find out you still got something wrong anyway.

  2. March 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Research can also be a blight, lol! I’ve been working on this one story, and the biggest problem for me has been where to start. Every time I think I have it nailed down, it changes…and every time it changes, I find I’m doing more research, lol!😀

  3. March 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    you so totally rock that 2 people can write one book and no 1 dies

  4. Justin
    March 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I just had this conversation the other day.
    My mom was put off by someone driving a Volkswagen Beetle in a book before they were for sale in the US. Wrong information just throws some people off.

  5. Maureen
    March 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I like the picture of the woman (though the cleavage looks very 1990’s). I like the picture of the jewelry. But they don’t go together. Egyptian jewelry needs either an expanse of skin or of cloth.

    Of course, if it’s supposed to be a picture of the necklace looking uncomfortable and incongruous, the artist made that work.

  6. March 5, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the post! Hope you enjoy the book as much. Maureen, we didn’t get much say about the cover but yeah, the collar is supposed to be uncomfortable (at least we have it so in the plot) so I guess the artist did good! LOL

  7. March 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    An unlooked-for side benefit is a much better title; The Horus Collar just sounds like “horse collar” after all. Even The Collar of Horus doesn’t have the same resonance as The Isis Collar.

  8. March 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

    LOL! Too true, Wolf! Didn’t think about that aspect, but you’re right. Isis sounds better than Horus as a title.🙂

  9. screwtape
    March 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

    @Wolf – unless you are writing about an item that magically improves the accuracy of your hero’s distance weapon. In that case, of course, what you want is ‘The Horus Scope’.

  10. March 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I think it’s great you created a disease for Celia to contend with:) It’s something like a monster where you just have to kick-butt and hope for the best, no this takes something altogether different to fight it. Good job of doing your homework!

    yadkny@hotmail.com

  11. March 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Great post. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

  12. ELF
    March 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Great melding of science and imagination! However, I am still creeped out by the concept…those little hand sanitizers will never be enough, lol.

    • March 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      LOL! Yeah, I don’t know that hand sanitizers are really meant for this sort of issue.

  13. March 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I loved the way your ideas came about for both the title and the type of “disease” you will use, it always amazes me how a stories origin starts out as something fairly simple then evolves into something rather complicated.

  14. Jess w.
    March 7, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I was wondering where the title came from. I can’t wait until the release!

  15. Liz Semkiu
    March 8, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Love the idea of a magical bacterium. I’m a doc and we have to deal with drug resistant bugs every day. Glad I don’t have to deal with magic resistant bugs!

  16. Jenny S.
    March 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I think all of your research really adds to the story. I think this story will be one that will scare us more since diesease (maybe not the magical kind though) is something we hear about and already fear. Can’t wait to read it!

    • March 8, 2012 at 8:53 am

      It was a very fun disease to write. If you’re a doctor, you’ll really enjoy the difference of opinion in a discussion between a field doctor who’s seen the disease up close versus the clinical researcher who has only seen it in a sterile environment. 🙂

  1. March 5, 2012 at 9:16 am
  2. March 5, 2012 at 9:34 am
  3. March 5, 2012 at 9:35 am
  4. March 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

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