I like Lehane’s writing, and I enjoyed meeting him back at New England Crime Bake a few years ago. He’s not afraid to switch genres and in person doesn’t pull any punches, but the main reason this particular interview resonated with me is because of a comment he made regarding research for his new novel, Live By Night.
Live by Night is set during the Roaring 20’s, the time of flappers, Prohibition, and the
Charleston dance craze. 207 Interviewer Rob Caldwell asked Lehane whether he listened to music of the era as he wrote, and Lehane said no. (He listens to Radiohead.) He then asked him how much digging up of historical facts the new book required Lehane answered, “ I research as needed.”
I love that comment, because I, too, “research as needed.” I’ll be buzzing along, and come upon some fact or detail I need to know, and I’ll allow myself to dig for an answer to that question and only that question. In other words, I don’t let myself fall headlong into what many writers call “research rapture.”
If you’re a diver, you know about nitrogen narcosis, the dreaded “rapture of the deep.” Research rapture won’t kill you physically, but it can sap a writer’s energy, time, and most important, momentum.
It’s not that I haven’t been a victim of this syndrome before. Once upon a time, I wrote historical articles for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Yankee, and the like, and I could immerse myself in the past like nobody’s business. It was a pleasant place to be – no deadlines, no tricky sentences to write, and no pesky editors looking for rewrites.
But my life is different now. I’m juggling a profession and a career, plus an active volunteer and social life. With a book due each March, I can’t afford to succumb to the siren song of endless inquiry. I’m glad to see that I’m in good company as I research as needed.