Doing your research

I spent the last 9 months of my life living in Chengdu, China. A crazy world that is completely different from the small Colorado city I grew up in. While there I learned how to speak Chinese, about Chinese culture, food, clothes art, history, and the daily life of a Chinese person. I tutored a little girl in English, became close with her family, and spent every Thursday night having dinner with them and my boyfriend.

It was a fantastic experience.

This is actually Nanjing, not Chengdu

Anyway, there are a couple reasons why I went to China for a year. The first is I love China and wanted to know what it was like there. The second, I had to study abroad for my major and since I was studying Chinese, I went here.

The third reason actually has to do with my writing, which is why I’m posting about it on my blog.

You see, two of the four main characters of my novel, Waking Immortal, are half-Chinese half-Thai. They were born in Beijing and moved to America when they were ten. Part of why I went to China is that I wanted to write the most believable characters that I could, and since a huge part of their lives are the culture of China, I knew I needed to go there. I needed to feel it, to see it for myself and understand what it was like to live in China.

So I did.

Now, of course, I’m a little crazy, so you don’t have to go as far as I did to understand a culture. It helps. But with the recent craze for diversity in publishing, and the desire for more books with underrepresented groups, research has become even more important.

This topic comes to me now after something I probably shouldn’t talk about because it’s controversial. Well, in a way. See, when an author becomes famous, anything you say about them is a tricky subject. If you criticize too much, all the crazy fans get angry at you and say things like, “How can you possibly know more about writing than J.K. Rowling????????????????????”

Yes. This is about the author of Harry Potter and her recent addition to the Harry Potter series, Ilvermorny.

Now I can’t complain about the Native American stuff in her first part. Not because I don’t think it’s insulting, but because I’m not part of any tribe and don’t want to get into it. No, my issue is not with that. It’s actually with something a lot more subtle: her very clear lack of understanding about America. Not just the Native American tribes, but America as it is now. As it was back then.

No-Maj, only one school for the entirety of America (and North America for that matter) when Britain has one and Europe has three, a school that’s basically a carbon copy of Hogwarts that was founded by a Welsh person and NOT an American?

Honestly, as an American, I’m insulted. Reading about Ilvermorny was honestly like reading someone who’s never been to America explaining American culture to me. It’s frustrating to see the woman who got me into reading, into writing, and into publishing, creating such a huge faux pas.

But this just goes to show how important research is. Even just asking a group of Americans about what we might want to call Muggles, or how a school would work here, would have made things so much better.

Research is important. Writing is just as much writing as it is research. If you didn’t grow up in a place or with an experience, you have to research it. Don’t assume you know. Don’t assume you’re done knowing. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s there’s always something new to learn. Maybe you won’t use it in your writing. The thing is, you never know. It’s always better to know more than you need.

What have you guys been researching?


Update on my writing: The last time you heard from me I was in a very bad place. But I’m better now 🙂 I’ve actually finished the second to last draft of Waking Immortal. See?


It’s all pretty and printed. Out to betas who hopefully won’t have that many complaints.

Have a wonderful day and happy 4th of July to those who celebrate!



One thought on “Doing your research

  1. Great read. I am always participating in forums on Critique Circle about this same subject. In my opinion, nothing turns a reader off more than incorrect facts. Doing a little bit of research not only makes the story more relatable and believable, but it prevents readers from hurling the book across the room out of frustration. I just created my own blog and author’s page that’s focused on this topic (primarily as it relates to science).

    Great idea having your beta-reader copies printed and bound. I started using Lulu to print my hardcopies (the private use feature that doesn’t publish it) so that my beta readers can get a feel of the book and cover as well as give me feedback on the formatting.

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