Research Rewards

This is one of the books I’m using to research my second book in the “Jane in St Pete” series. When I decided on an amateur sleuth series, I made Jane a retired art lecturer because I thought the research would be fun. And it is. I’ve read three books about Frida. A biography, then a book of her portraits, and finally this one, her diary. The diary plays a key role in the mystery.

But my interest in Frida Kahlo goes beyond researching my novel. I’m a devoted fan of her work and admire most everything about her short, painful life. There’s a painting, watercolor with colored pencils, from the diary that shows Frida consumed by fire in the midst of greenery. The title, Te Vas? No. Alas Rotes, translates to “Are you going? No. Broken Wings.” The diary Frida kept in the last ten years of her life, when for medical reasons she was mostly confined to her home near Mexico City, is a made thing. There are drawings, paintings, and poems along with some actual diary entries.

I’ve just ordered a few more research books, not on Frida, because in the Jane in St Pete novels, I don’t want to overwhelm readers with art. As with all research in fiction, you don’t want to do an info dump. This can be tricky, as I always find one more thing I want to say about Frida. A light touch works better for the reader and the book.

17 Comments

  1. The info dump is a tricky line to walk in historical fiction, too. I probably use about 10% of the research notes I write by hand in journals in my finished novels. I love doing the research. My dad always said to learn at least one new thing every day. I sure do. My current research involves the 1960s. A more turbulent decade I could not imagine. I do have the advantage of having lived through it though. I saw the Frida exhibit at the DIA and was fascinated. I’ve always been intrigued by artistic couples in particular. Looking forward to reading your St. Pete/Frida book, Cindy!

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    1. Thanks, Barb. The same exhibit was in St Pete at the Dali. The Surrealists loved Frida, they even put on a one person show for her, but she didn’t think of herself that way. You can see the obvious symbolism in her work. All the little paintings around her in her hospital bed at Henry Ford Hospital.

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    1. I do too. đź’• After researching Police, FBI, Private Investigator, and murderers…I decided to write a series on a retired art lecturer. 🤗 Been reading Frida’s diary, which she kept for 10 years until her death. It’s full of drawings and watercolors and poems and nobody knew it existed until recently.

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  2. I usually write all I want to say in my drafts, then, when I’m revising and editing, I start moving things around – copy pasting paragraphs, to keep the scene from having too much info. But I also delete a lot of things to keep it simple and to the point. Sometimes the scenes I delete make me sad, because I really thought it sounded nice but it didn’t have a place. My researches are mostly done while I’m already drafting, and I mostly do the research on a very specific point I’m writing for a scene. Otherwise, if I pick up a book and start researching an entire era, or method of painting or someone’s life to use later, I’d probably forget it.
    Glad to see you’re making progress with your writing.

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    1. I don’t know your story but even if I did there is too much legal liability. My publisher wouldn’t touch it. Also writers need a spark, they need to feel an addictive connection to the material.

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  3. If you don’t want to be a writer (it’s fun and difficult) there are a million ghost writers out there who will write your book for you. Here’s the next thing lots of people say “So then I tell you the story, you write it down, we split the profits!” So if you do hire someone, you’ll have to pay them and check out that they are legit.

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