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What didn’t happen

July 26, 2016

Readers compliment me for the research that makes the details of The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam historical fantasy series authentic.

I confess I do put a lot of effort into research. At first, I didn’t plan to do any of it. The Lost King was a fantasy tale; I was going to simply make stuff up. However, as I wrote one scene where King Bewilliam takes an item from his pocket, I found myself wondering “Did they have pockets in the Middle Ages?” No, they didn’t. While medieval soldiers had elaborate formidable weapons at their command, they didn’t have pockets. Those, I discovered, were a much later invention. After that episode, though, I couldn’t write a syllable without first checking “What did they eat then?” “What did they wear then?” etc.

Although my current works-in-progress are contemporary thrillers, I still have to conduct research. As much effort as I put into studying the Middle Ages, my current line of research is harder. Both Detour and The Zen Detective are set in the 1990s. I need to know not so much what happened as what didn’t happen, what wasn’t available, particularly with regard to technology.

A homeowner and business executive, I was very much present in the Nineties, but it was long enough ago that I don’t remember it in vivid detail. As I write scenes with characters having a typical day, I have to study the minutiae of my own and make note of ordinary devices that I take for granted. I reach for a cell phone, leave a voice mail message, send an email, post a Tweet without a second thought. However cell phones were not commonplace in the early 1990s and voicemail for consumers was still in its infancy, as was email. Instead, people-on-the-move used pay phones to stay in touch or, for those who were really cool, pagers. Facebook didn’t make the scene until 2004 and Twitter not until 2006. Consumers on the cutting edge of early Nineties technology connected with the Internet via a brand new offering: dial-up.

Detour, a Big Rig Thriller by Devorah FoxI see that dreamy look in your eye. If you were around then, it’s all coming back to you now, right? If you weren’t, you’re trying to imagine how anyone got anything done. For this writer, eliminating what didn’t happen is proving to be harder than determining what did.

Detour and The Zen Detective are now headed into production in all their vintage glory. Look for Detour to launch later this year, The Zen Detective in early 2017.

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