Research and fiction

Thanks peoples … again. Reading your replies made me realise that I’m having trouble believing that my need to collect information for my novel is as legitimate as my need to collect information for publications I was being paid in advance to produce.

I’ve done a tiny amount of freelance journalism and a large amount of software documentation. I know how to pester people with charm, persistence and chocolate. I acknowledge Hugh’s “relentless interest” as a beautiful description of the technique for pinning down a reluctant expert. I know that the best questions are the wide-eyed innocent dumb questions that come from doing so much background work that you know they have no sensible answer. I’ve had the wonderful experience of getting so involved with the problems an expert is trying to resolve that I’ve been able to contribute to the solutions in the course of doing my own work. But always before I had a kind of external authority: I was preparing an article for Diddly Magazine; I was responsible for producing the online help and the software couldn’t be released without it.

Having identified that, I’m pretty sure I can get through it because the further I get into this the stronger my commitment is getting, which is an authority in its own way. I still feel a bit sick when I think about actually contacting these guys, but that’s just nerves and I’ll get through that too.

Except… I’m in Australia and the experts are in Europe, which means that the communications will have to be email, with at most a couple of phone conversations. Previously all my interviewing has been in person and my cold contacts have been by phone. I guess I’m concerned that I’ll spend hours preparing my email inquiries only to have them disappear into a junk folder because poor Expert is drowning in unsolicited correspondence. Time to worry about that if it happens.

OK. Chew last fingernail and on we go.


Consider using email for initial contact and to set up a peer to peer video/voice conference via skype or iChat. I have just started to mandate this at work as it leads to a greater productivity for my team when working with our offshore providers.

Just an idea.