Since my fellow Emus have been discussing research lately, I feel compelled to throw in my well-researched two cents–or, if you prefer, 1.3 cents in Euros, 1.6 Japanese Yen, and half a Russian Ruble. I’ve done my research. But have I done too much?
Just like Cynthia needed to get the facts straight in her non-fiction work, J. and Jeannie needed to set the stage for their historical fiction novels, and Mike needed to get his sorry butt out there and talk to people, I also needed to do some research for my middle grade novel, FLYING THE DRAGON.
One of my characters comes from Japan, so I drew from my experience of living in Japan and teaching at the Yokohama International School. Was it enough? Not even close. I was lucky to come across two teachers from Japanese immersion schools in the county where I teach who were willing to look over my manuscript for any cultural or linguistic faux pas. Hoo boy, am I glad they did. Although I was familiar with Japanese culture on the surface, I didn’t know the ins and outs of daily family and school life.
Nor did I know a whit about kite-making or rokkaku (kite fighting), which also features prominently in the novel. I asked two experts, who kindly told me everything I needed to know. And maybe a little bit extra.
Okay, maybe a lot extra.
My kite fighting research led to a history of kite fighting and flying. Hey, did you know that people used to be strapped to kites to spy behind enemy lines? Oh, and legend says there once was a thief in Japan who strapped himself to a kite and soared to the top of Nagoya Castle to steal golden fish scales from the roof. He was eventually caught and boiled in oil.
Not that..ahem… any of that’s in my novel…
And! Speaking of fish scales…one of my character’s hometown in Japan is right on the sea, which led me to links on the deadly fugu fish, a delicacy in Japan. Japanese chefs actually need a license to prove they can safely remove the pouch of poison so their customers don’t croak.
Are there fugu fish in my novel? Um, not exactly.
Okay, no. There are no fugu fish at all.
So where does all this research lead me? For one, I’ve got plenty of material for at least one early chapter book about a fugu fish strapped to a kite.
As for the rest, I hope my novel will ring true for anyone who knows about life in Japan and fighting kites. And for those who know nothing of Japan or fighting kites, I hope it will give them an authentic taste.
Just don’t taste the fugu…