Research, or suffering for my art

Authors often get asked how much research we have to do for each book. So, I thought I’d share a peek into a bit of the research for MY FAIR LATTE, which comes out March 3 – one month from today. (Think *pre-orders*!)

Halley Greer, my unemployed barista protagonist, unexpectedly inherits a timeworn movie theater, which after some renovations, she reopens with a coffee/wine bar and showing classic films.

Perhaps since I spent most of my adult life working as a newspaper reporter, I’m not content to simply do research online, although I can go down that rabbit hole for hours at a time. I like to get information directly from people who have personal experience and knowledge of the research subject.

Delft Marquee Lighted

For the first book in this new series, I languished for hours in coffeehouses over expertly pulled espresso shots. I asked nosy questions and stared at numerous baristas as they created latte art. My husband enjoyed (endured) multiple documentaries on baristas and the coffee industry.

Since my main character owns and runs a movie theater, there’s a marquee in front that advertises the classic film that’s currently showing. Most of the marquees I saw online (and in the real world, for that matter), are flat against the front of the theater. You typically see theater staff putting letters up on the marquee either standing on a ladder or using a long pole. But the marquee on the former theater (now a cool bistro) in my neighborhood has a different kind of marquee, one that projects out over the sidewalk. And I decided to use that one as my inspiration.

Me holding letter with Delft in bkgrd lightened

Vickie holding S

The photos here showcase the rarely-seen back of this marquee, thanks to Steven at the Delft Bistro in Marquette, who allowed me behind the scenes. Photos show me holding an “S” that goes up on the marquee (these are heavy!), both behind the Delft Marquee and in the room where the letters are stored.

Delft - me talking to StevenIn the photo here we can see Steven, who’s wearing a safety harness that’s attached to the steel structure holding up the marquee. He ducks under the marquee, groups the letters, then stands on the part of the platform extending in front of the marquee to arrange words announcing special events. Steven is bravely kneeling on the outer edge as I not-quite-as-bravely stand in the doorway to the marquee platform, talking to him. Finally, there’s a picture of the marquee at night, all lit up, including the underside of the platform.

The hours I spent looking at marquees online and all the information I gathered on my field trip add up to one short paragraph in the book. (You’re welcome.) The point of the research wasn’t to give readers a tutorial, but to make the scene vivid with some authentic details. And, if I’m honest, to satisfy my own endless curiosity (nosiness).

CoverMyFairLatteBroke, unemployed barista Halley unexpectedly inherits a timeworn movie theater and reopens it with a coffee bar showing classic films. Opening night’s premiere of “My Fair Lady” is a bit of movie magic until, faster than you can say Eliza Doolittle, a customer turns up dead. Apparently, the deceased wasn’t a very nice man and several people may have had reason to kill him – including Halley! (At least that’s the way the cops seem to see it.) Halley and her friends must find the killer or her new business, her new life, and budding romance in charming Utopia Springs could be DOA.

Is there a subject you’d enjoy delving into for research, or someplace you’d like to go for a field trip? Please share in the comments.


35 thoughts on “Research, or suffering for my art

    1. Thanks, Liz! I didn’t mention in this post, but the fictional town of Utopia Springs in the new series is inspired by the real-life tourist town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where hubs and I have vacationed a few times. Hope I get to enjoy a few more “field trips” there!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Vickie, what a fascinating post. I love old theaters (and coffee!) and of course can’t wait for Book 1 to appear in my mailbox. Loved hearing about your research. Who takes care of all those little light bulbs, eek?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi, Keenan! Steven usually does it before 8 a.m. (although I’m not a morning person and this was an afternoon field trip). I would guess most theaters get the marquees changed out early, before there’s much foot traffic on the sidewalks. But, you’re right, It’s not something you see very often. After Lisa’s question, now I’ll be watching for Steven to change out those tiny light bulbs!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. That is so cool, Vickie! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a marquee like that. Or maybe I’ve just never noticed. Will start paying attention posthaste! And I can’t wait to get this book …. squee!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. How wonderful! Thank you for taking us behind the scenes with you, Vickie, and I can’t wait to read your book. Funny, I had no idea that the letters would be heavy and solid. I always imagined that they’d be lightweight and film-y. Are you doing anything special for the Oscars this year, book-related maybe? 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Aw, thanks, Cynthia! I know, I was surprised they were so heavy! But, here right by Lake Superior I think lightweight letters would probably get blown right off the marquee! Hmm, the Oscars is a good idea — I’ll try to think of something!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL, Nancy, I’m convinced all mystery writers are on some kind of FBI watchlist! If they ever put me under surveillance I think they’d bore pretty quickly of watching me drink coffee and stare at the blinking cursor on my computer screen!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, we Chicks should start one and invite all of our reader and author friends for ice cream on the house. Think of the flavors we could come up with…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. And here I was expecting a post talking about the hours you spent watching classic movies.

    That is fascinating about the signs. I’ve only ever seen people putting them up from the ground since that’s what we’ve got here.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Fascinating!! This marquee reminds me of the one at The Roseway in Portland, where I used to watch classic films with my dad. Love-love-love getting this behind-the-scenes peek–just like I love-love-love this book!

    My research is usually medical/pharmaceutical (although, like Nancy I spent a fair amount of time poring over poisons for my last book). I like Cynthia’s idea of an ice cream shop for research purposes. Or maybe something that requires spa visits!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I got to hang out in the projection room of our local theater (the Aero, in Santa Monica) when I was a teenager, ’cause the projection guy was a friend of my brother’s–very cool!

    I, too, am surprised that the letters are heavy, but I guess that’s so they don’t blow off in the wind? So looking forward to this book, Vickie! Yippee!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Vickie, this is so interesting! I had no idea the letters would be heavy, either. I also figured they were plastic. LOVE the book and can’t wait to read more in the series. You do a perfect job of creating a location and characters I can’t wait to visit with again.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m friends with Bryn Greenwood and it was was fun to read her latest book and recall blog posts (under a diff name) which seemed like fun adventures at the time but turned out to have been research.

    Good luck with your release!!


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