I interviewed investigative reporter, Tim Bouquet, about his research methods way back in 2008 for my Research Secrets slot in Writers’ Forum .
Tim specialises in investigative narrative story telling for a variety of magazines including The Times Magazine, Telegraph Magazine, Esquire, Reader’s Digest, Melbourne Age and the Irish Times. He is the co-author, with Byron Ousey, of Cold Steel Britain’s Richest Man and his Billion Dollar Battle for Global Empire (Little Brown). Cold Steel is about Lakshmi Mittal and an epic, dirty and sometimes racist, takeover battle he fought to take over the world’s second biggest steel company. This creative non-fiction thriller, reads like fiction.
Lakshmi Mittal, a Calcutta-born industrialist, raised himself up from humble beginnings to become the world’s fourth-richest man. He proposed a friendly merger with rival Arcelor, a pan-European company whose interested parties include the governments of Spain, Luxembourg and Belgium. Arcelor’s mercurial CEO, Frenchman Guy Dolle, firmly refused the merger. The scene is set for a massive hostile takeover involving billions of dollars of finance, government and shareholder manoeuvring, and accusations of jingoism and double-dealing. Cold Steel brings to life the cut and thrust of big business at war.
As part of their research for Cold Steel, Tim and Byron interviewed 55 people face-to-face in six countries. Tim told me:
I organise all my research by chronology and character. From here I sketch out the basic building blocks and tipping points of the story. These may change but at least it’s a starting point.
He always tries to talk to people in places where events in his writing take place because he feels it helps to paint a picture of the setting and reminds the people he is interviewing where they were physically when certain key events happened. I feel this is excellent advice and if possible it is worth meeting the people you are interviewing at a set location for your book or novel. Tim explained to me how he visited all the places they wrote about in Cold Steel. He said:
If you want to set a scene in an operating theatre you need to visit one. I always visit the places I write about. If you haven’t been there or somewhere like it, how can you take your reader there?
In Cold Steel, they listed people who had helped them set up interviews in the acknowledgements and they listed all the people they had talked to and played leading roles in the story in a section called The Players.
My advice to other writers is check and double check. Don’t believe everything people tell you!
To find more information about Tim Bouquet, his co-author Byron Ousey and their book Cold Steel, visit the website: www.coldsteelbook.com