To Search, Research and Re-search

The Search ©FrogDiva Photography

As 2019 comes to a close and look back on the year and decade that was, I have a lot to be grateful for as a writer. What began as a more sophisticated journal that transformed into a blog and eventually became the source material for books, and inspiration for more. The last ten years have been both rich and fruitful in terms of travel, experiences, emotions, sights and sounds – the perfect cornucopia for a writer to hone her craft based on real life, and not reel.

Every once in a while a phrase from a book or a line from a movie will catch my attention or inspire me to develop something similar, but the path I have chosen to walk down as a literary activist who exposes unpleasant and sensitive social issues is not an easy path. It would have been so much more profitable to go into the pocketbook romance genre and generate more sales through e-books, but I wanted substance, and the burning desire to tackle controversial topics and create awareness has always existed within me.

If there is one thing I have learned these past ten years in blogging and writing, is the importance of in-depth research. It is not enough to surf the net for the information, but travel and interviews are the bread and butter to all Marie Balustrade´s work. Much of the material used for Wings At Dawn for example, came from the social workers, family physicians, and psychologists who offered their time and friendship. One could say that it took me a good 10 years to collect all the material, sift through the data, and then double check the facts. After all, if I am going to weave a fictional tale around a very real topic, the backdrop and the facts that the main characters refer to have to be accurate. I have lost count of the number of times I lost my files or the cat walked over the keyboard and had to start from scratch, learning the hard way to back up on an external hard disk AND a cloud. Thankfully the effort has paid off and the readers and reviewers alike have sat up to notice the amount of background information that went into the novel.

In a similar manner, it has taken me almost four years to complete the research for Sunset Shadows. When I started off in 2015 I had an inkling how the topic would snowball one way or another, but never imagined where it would lead me. What began as a keen personal interest in Manila and Bangkok has metamorphosed into a gigantic network of interrelated topics and issues that completely overwhelmed me. Add to that my own personal tragedies during the same time, I am now in a much better emotional place as a writer than I was when I started with Wings At Dawn. But at some point I have to draw the line and declare the research over, taking a hard decision on what to include, ditch, or save for another book. So after researching and interviewing my sources in Thailand, the Philippines, India, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Czeck Republic, Poland, Italy, Paraguay, Ukraine, Brussels and France, I am ready to sit down and weave the novel together!

I am a year behind schedule, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and emotionally drained, but like I said in the beginning, I had no idea that the research would take on such bizarre dimensions. The researcher side of me who has can finally lean back and put up her feet while author takes over.

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