WIP – Research

It’s not only the big stuff that requires research when writing a novel. The big stuff in my current Work-in-Progress includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and whale behavior. But I thought I’d illustrate how much research truly goes into a book. As I’ve mentioned before, as I write, I keep a running list of things I need to check on before finishing the book. That list is now many, many pages long. Groan.
Here’s a paragraph from chapter two, written from 17-year-old Maggie’s point of view:
           I called Mom to let her know the lock-in had been moved from the community center to Drury Memorial so she’d know where to pick Andy up in the morning. Then I told her I was going over Amber Donnelly’s. Instead, I drove to the northern end of the Island, which, on a mid-week night in early April, felt more like the end of the universe. I saw only two other cars on the road in seven miles, both heading south, and few of the houses had lights on inside. The moon was so full and bright that eerie shadows of shrubs and mailboxes lay across the road in front of me. I thought I was seeing dogs or deer in the road and I kept braking for nothing. I was relieved when I spotted the row of cottages on the beach.
Now here’s what I added to my research list from that one simple paragraph:

  • Is there a community center? If not, where could the lock-in have been held? If so, where is it in relation to my setting of the fictional church?
  • Is seven miles the correct distance?
  • Can there be a full moon in early April 2007?
  • Are there deer on Topsail Island?

 I’m not complaining–well, I guess I did groan above, didn’t I? But the research is fun, although it takes time (and another trip to Topsail Island–yippee!) to make sure I have things right. Even so, I know I’ll make a mistake or two that astute readers will be sure to point out to me!
Back to work.


  1. Margo on February 16, 2007 at 8:50 am

    This explains why your novels are so real…not only do you write from your heart but the craftmanship you put into every detail is astounding. I always feel like I am RIGHT THERE when reading your books and I can see that alot of it is because of your behind-the-scenes research. I admire you so much for caring about accuracy and that is just 1 of many things that sets you apart from other authors. If you need an assistant to take notes at Topsail Island I’m available!!

  2. Diane Chamberlain on February 16, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you, Margo!

  3. brenda on February 20, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    After I finish my projects, I will help you with research.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on February 20, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    No way, Brenda. I insist you eat bonbons and have weekly pedicures. . . nothing resembling work.

  5. Susan on March 8, 2007 at 12:41 am

    I was “googling” for pictures of Hurricane Fran destruction on Topsail and, as usually when surfing the web, I strayed from my original focus. I stumbled on your site and was intrigued by your plans to use Topsail in your new novel.
    I’ve owned a condo on Topsail for 7 years and escape from Texas to get my beach fix as often as possible. I can answer some of your questions. Most of us consider the Assembly Building in Topsail Beach (the southernmost city on the island) to be the community center. There is a community center located in Surf City (the city that is mid-island) but it is off-island on the mainland section of Surf City. By the way, the northernmost city on the island is North Topsail Beach. I don’t believe there is a community center in North Topsail Beach.
    The island is 26 miles long but very narrow. As long as the driver is going north or south, she will remain out of the Atlantic and Intercoastal Waterway.
    I’ve never seen a deer on Topsail but nearly every “local” proudly displays a picture of a bear that had crossed the Intercoastal Waterway and was found wandering on the beach. So a deer sighting is possible but highly unlikely.
    All of us who have discovered Topsail try to keep it a secret. It’s still a relatively quiet little island with no big hotels. I’m heading to Topsail next week, can’t wait.
    I sorry to say I’m not familiar with your work but plan to visit the bookstore tomorrow to fix that problem. By the way, there is a wonderful, funky little bookstore in Topsail Beach called Quarter Moon. Make sure you check it out when you visit Topsail.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on March 8, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Hi Susan,
    Nice to hear from a “real” Topsail Islander! I envy you for having a condo there.
    Thank you for the info. I am going to have to plan another research trip to the island to find the “community center” type building I’m looking for. It will be easy because if it doesn’t exist, I can make it up. The benefits of writing fiction!
    I’m familiar with Quarter Moon Books and its dynamic owner, Lori Westervelt. A couple of years ago I participated in Quarter Moon’s annual “Moveable Feast” in the Assembly Building. That was such fun! There were nine tables of attendees. Nine authors moved from table to table (sort of like speed dating) during the luncheon so we could have intimate conversations about our work with 90 people by the end of the event.
    Thanks again for visiting the blog. I hope you enjoy my books and will stop by again soon. Have a wonderful time in Topsail next week!

  7. Susan on March 8, 2007 at 10:27 pm


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