You know the saying. “It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.” Well, we authors have to research and sometimes the author’s research is fun. Really fun!
Actually, I love research and it’s almost always fun. In Skoghall, I’ve got a character who’s a potter, Beckett the Potter. He’s converted an old building into his studio:
The old livery had a poured concrete floor, a high ceiling that sloped from a large center beam toward each side wall, and the original doors that opened wide enough to admit a carriage or wagon. It had been a diner for a time in the 1960s and ‘70s, the walls decorated with horse tack and branding irons. In the center they had used the forge as a fireplace, and the old horse stalls became dividers between booths. The kitchen remained at one end of the building, gutted after the restaurant closed except for the sink and cupboards. It was there, Beckett explained, that he stored his powders. He mixed clays and glazes in large buckets on the stainless steel countertops. The tables in the old booths were covered with bisque pottery, waiting to be glazed, or stacks of bats and various shaping tools thrown into bins. One table near a window was clear except for a book and a coffee mug. Beckett had two wheels near the converted forge, and a large, central work table strewn with buckets of slip, scraps of clay, various tools, and a few unfired pots waiting to be trimmed. Near the front doors, he had display tables neatly covered in black cloths. The pots here were priced for sale and their display showed a care missing from the workspace.
Beckett saw Jess considering the commercial part of his studio. “Isn’t that what people want?” he said. “A beautiful display of art here, and a glimpse into the messy workings of the artist’s mind back there.” He turned his head toward the large room behind them, a wry smile curling his lips.
You see where the tough job comes in, right? I mean, I can’t possibly have a major character whose career is being a potter without knowing how to make a pot myself. The devil is in the details and readers can usually tell when you fake it.
Scott and I have been pining to make pottery for years. I took pottery in high school, so have a basic sense of things, but it’s been way too many years for that to count for much. Last fall, we went to a family cabin and were admiring some of Scott’s mom’s coffee cups made by a local potter.
Me: We should have these cups.
Scott: We could just take them. My mom would never miss them.
Me: We could just ask her if we can have them.
Scott: She’ll say yes…or we can just buy our own cups.
Me: Let’s go!
We paid a visit to Cyrus the Potter and bought some gorgeous pots, all so we wouldn’t have to steal Scott’s mom’s coffee cups. Then we began talking in earnest about making our own pottery.
On Christmas eve, Scott opened my present first–pottery lessons for two! His reaction was somewhat underwhelming. Odd, but Christmas stresses some people out. Some people don’t like receiving gifts they’ve been talking about for months. Sudden performance anxiety over handling clay. Who knew? A little time passed and then I opened Scott’s gift to me–pottery lessons for two!
Here it is March. We just got our first glazed pots back. I threw 2 coffee cups and a bowl last night. They’re in the wet closet. Next week, I’ll trim them and add handles to the mugs. It’s all very exciting, making things with my hands.
And sometimes, just sometimes, the things I have to do for research are also the things I really want to do for myself. Author’s research isn’t a bad job, after all.