In my Research Secrets column in the national writing magazine, Writers’ Forum, this month I interview NJ Crosskey about her ‘decidedly dodgy’ research for her debut novel, Poster Boy.
Poster Boy is about Rosa who is at her brother’s funeral with a bomb strapped to her chest. The story unfolds as a flashback showing Rosa growing up with her brother Jimmy and the events that led up to his death and ultimately turning him into a reluctant hero. This novel demonstrates how easy it is to manipulate and spin opinion using social media and fake news and how Rosa is able to see through the lies and the fear they are purposely creating.
NJ Crosskey explained to write this book she needed to know about making bombs, planting explosives, security details for government ministers, clandestine communications and specific locations. She told me:
“Research is the foundation that makes a story like Poster Boy credible. But just like the foundations to a building, it should be largely unseen. Whilst it may appear to the reader that the hours I spent online researching the construction and effects of suicide vests resulted in only a single line:
‘I’ve got the semtex and shrapnel to contend with.’
The truth is that knowledge drove the entire scene. Knowing the range, weight, and aesthetics of the device is what made the whole image plausible.” NJ Crosskey
She used Google street view to find perfect locations which she knew little about and was able to talk to experts by asking around amongst friends and on online writing forums. Her advice to other writers is to think outside the box when it comes to researching your novel. Facts are important, of course, but real human experiences and opinions are equally vital for ensuring your story comes across as authentic – no matter how fantastical your plot!
“There are so many tools these days for writers seeking information, we really are spoilt! As well as all the obvious places to find information (Google searches, newspapers and journals, text books etc), there are a whole host of other resources. You can find TED Talks by experts on almost any subject online, Ancestry.com is invaluable for those writing historical fiction, and sites such as Quora allow you to ask questions that can be answered by experts all over the world.” NJ Crosskey
Poster Boy was published April 1st 2019 by Legend Press.
You can find out more by NJ Crosskey by following her on Twitter @NJCrosskey, or visiting her blog: https://njcrosskey.wordpress.com/