Learning about the ingredients in SWEET SALT AIR
I’m talking about doing research, so that I know what I’m saying when I write a book like Sweet Salt Air. Okay. This being fiction, technically I can do what I want. But I pride myself on writing books that are realistic, and in cases where serious things are involved (like cord blood and stem cells and MS), I owe it to my readers to get it right.
The serious issue in Sweet Salt Air is a medical one that underlies the plot. If you read my last blog, you know that as I planned this book, I connected with a doctor who is in the forefront of research using umbilical cord stem cells to treat various diseases. He was my lifeline as I wrote the book. Not only did he give me a ton of information at the start, but as questions cropped up during the writing, I could shoot him an email and know that he would answer ASAP. Once, he actually answered me from Paris, where he’d gone to deliver a paper! He really got into the characters and all, which made it fun for me.
But there were other, lighter issues in Sweet Salt Air that I had to research as well. Take herbs. I add basil to Buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes when I make a caprese salad, but I buy the basil grown and packaged. My spice cabinet has the usual dried suspects, like thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Did I know how each one grows? No. Did I know the medicinal qualities of various herbs? No. As you see below, rosemary is beautiful and green. Did I know the best ways to use it? No!
I had to learn. The Web was a wonderful source of information, but as I sit at my computer typing this, I can look over at the herb dictionaries I bought at the start of the writing. And flowers? Many have homeopathic value as well. I learned, for instance, that passionflower is a mild sedative and that valerian is used to treat shock, as in PTSD. Both of these plants appear in the book. And most of what I learned about them came from a book.
I had to learn about roofing. Got this from the handyman who was working here at my house at the time.
I had to learn about Chicago. Used the Web for that. Same with learning about the Aran Isles.
When it came to learning how one becomes a blogger, I contacted the friend of a friend, who is one, and she told me.
And little details, like the offerings of the small coastal town of Rockland, Maine? Online as well. Rarely did a day pass when I didn’t Google one or two or three things!
Did I get everything right in the book? Of course not. Sometimes the world changes between when I do my research and when the book comes out. For instance, as I wrote Sweet Salt Air, umbilical cord stem cell transplants were a character’s great hope. It could be that next year they’ll be disproved for this purpose. Or that a new and better method is found for putting shingles on a roof. Or that one of the herbs I tout in Sweet Salt Air is found to cause a drastic reaction in allergy-prone children.
I’m human. I make mistakes. Please know, though, that I always try my best.
Next blog? Favorite character in Sweet Salt Air. Favorite scene. Favorite food.