In my Research Secrets double page spread in Writers’ Forum M. G. Leonard explained how her research into beetles turned her fear of creepy crawlies into an obsession.
She told me her, Beetle Boy book didn’t start out with a beetle as a central character and it wasn’t called Beetle Boy. M. G. Leonard revealed she knew there would be beetles in the story, but because she was scared of creepy crawlies and thought they were horrid and signified something bad it neveer occured to her to make them the protagonists. But when she started researching beetles she became obsessed .
She didn’t start keeping pet beetles until after Beetle Boy was published and was still nervous around live insects.
“Everything changed when I was invited to appear on Blue Peter for National Insect Week with lots of live beetles. I visited my entomologist friend, Dr Sarah Beynon, who has a bug zoo in Pembrokeshire. She spent a day getting me to hold insects, and I fell in love with rainbow stag beetles. They are so beautiful. I immediately bought myself a pair and took them home so that I could handle them every day and desensitize myself to my fear. I was at the beginning of a journey.” M.G, Leanard
Since then she has bought an adult pair of African flower beetles, which she claims are relatively easy to breed. Watching them grow, eat and eventually pupate, informed her descriptions of the rooms inside Lucretia Cutter’s villainous lair – the Biome deep in the Amazon jungle – featured in Battle of the Beetles.
MG Leonard’s tip if you are incorporating unusual pets into your stories, is to spend time with the living creatures. Peering at them in a zoo won’t give you a unique insight into the way they behave when they’re hungry, or horney, scared or resting.
The descriptions of what it feels like to hold a beetle, to hear a beetle flying, of how they express themselves, all comes from careful observation of her living pets. It’s because she keeps beetles she knows many species are nocturnal, none sleep, and they control their body temperature by burying into soil.
“I did so much research for the Beetle Boy series. There isn’t a book about beetles that I don’t own. I trawled the internet browsing every single website that contained information about beetles. I watched all the youtube videos, listened to BBC audio shows.” M. G. Leonard
M. G. Leonard told me that researching is like a treasure hunt. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You find a clue and follow where it takes you. There’s no pattern to it. She believes that there is no greater resource to the researching writer than the internet. Google maps allow you to see any place on the planet and Wikipedia will give you information about it. Books would take years longer to write without them.
You can find out more about M. G. Leonard and her books on her website www.mgleonard.com and follow her on social media: Twitter @mglnrd; Instagram @mglnrd; Facebook@ mglnrd
To read the complete feature take a look at #219 Jan 2019 of Writers’ Forum magazine.