Jacqueline Harrett

Doing The Research For The Nesting Place

The Nesting Place

When I was writing The Nesting Place I didn’t think much about research. After all, everything these days seems to be available at the click of a button. It’s only as I’ve been writing the sequel that I’ve thought about what research I needed to do for that story. That’s typical. I get all these mad ideas but no way of knowing if they will work or not.

Plus, research sounds so grand, as if you have to have a PhD in forensics before you can write about a dead body. Some research may be like that but finding out about stuff is what we do all the time. You’ve a pain in your foot so you Google it. You need a plant for the garden, or a plumber, or you want to know the quickest way to get somewhere. Google or another search engine does the work. I’m sure that anyone examining my search history would be surprised. No, I’m not going to let you in on that secret.

Close up picture of a Rolex watch. Photo by Laurenz Heymann on Unsplash.
Thanks to Laurenz Heymann for making this photo freely available on unsplash.com

In The Nesting Place Rishi, the pathologist, explains all about Rolex watches and how to tell if it’s fake or not. That piece of research was prompted by James McCreet, who said that readers enjoy little details. I found it fascinating as well. Worth knowing if you ever go to the Grand Bazaar in Marrakesh where it seems everything is so cheap it has to be fake.

Researching police procedures? No. I never intended to write a police procedural. What do I know about how the South Wales police deal with things? Zilch. It was supposed to be a psychological thriller examining the lives of the young women involved. Then Mandy Wilde took over and I went with the flow, hoping that the situations and interviews described were not so off key that the novel would be greeted with complaints. Claire Mackintosh, who used to be a police officer, says she worries less and less about whether the procedures are correct or not so that made me feel a bit better.

A coffee roaster smelling a freshly brewed coffee. Photo by Battlecreek Coffee Roasters on Unsplash.
Thanks to Battlecreek Coffee Roasters for making this photo freely available on unsplash.com

We were in lockdown when I was writing The Nesting Place so had to rely on memory of places and, you guessed, Google Earth to visit. All that’s fine for the visual aspects but the sounds and smells are important too. Some places have a distinct smell. (My abiding memory of Hong Kong is that it smelled just like a takeaway.) The countryside usually has a mixture of smells, depending on where you are, time of year, and the weather. I seem to be very sensitive to smell and sounds so trying to recreate these was challenging. Once we were allowed out it was easier to go and sniff around places.

Sometimes you can do a lot of research, find pages of information, and a sentence or a phrase is the only bit you use in the story. For example, my husband’s grandfather was killed in the Llandow air disaster. We have knowledge and information about that, but it is given a passing mention in the story as it wasn’t important to the plot. It’s easy to get sucked into things that are of no relevance but fascinating all the same. You never know, little nuggets of information could be useful sometime – pub quiz anyone?

A pile of different prescription tablets. Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash.
Thanks to Volodymyr Hryshchenko for making this photo freely available on unsplash.com

In the story the victim, Megan Pritchard, was taking medication which she couldn’t mix with alcohol. I researched that as well but didn’t want to name a drug, leaving it vague, knowing that some people may be affected if they were on the same medication. Research can be as much about leaving things out as putting things in. The reader doesn’t want to be bored rigid by extraneous information that will bog the story down and look didactic.

Maybe next time I’ll keep a log of what needed to be researched. It is so instinctive these days to turn to the internet. It can answer a lot of your questions – even, as I found out, about those elusive smells and how things taste. Still, there’s nothing like personal experience so getting out and about and talking to people is the best research. Being Irish, I love to talk, and people don’t realise that the things they say may be noted and used in a story. Anonymised of course!

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