Julie Moffett is the author of No One Lives Twice, a hilarious spy adventure novel. She’s also the author of eight other novels. I loved No One Lived Twice; as I recall, during one scene I was laughing so hard that I got chest pains. It must have been muscle spasms because I’m still here. I can’t say reading her novels is hazardous to your health, but it did have me worried there for a while as I gasped for breath and clutched my chest. The second novel in the Lexie Carmichael series (No One to Trust) is due out in June, plus Her Kilt-Clad Rogue is coming out in August. Read more about Julie and her books at her website, and be sure to catch  her on Facebook and Twitter.

Research Anyone?

Right from the start I’ll make a confession and admit I got the idea for this blog from Tia. She’s read my Carina Press novel, a humorous techno-spy mystery titled NO ONE LIVES TWICE, and told me she’s curious about the technical research required for the book.  Did I do exhaustive research or did I make it up?

NoOneLivesTwiceWell, the answer is (drum roll)…I researched. A lot. Since my heroine is a hacker and her closest friends are brilliant computer nerds, I knew I had to get it right. Lucky for me, my immediate family is full of geeks. I bounced ideas off of them once I had an overall plot in place. I asked dozens of questions about computers, networks, hardware and software. Not only did I need to know the types of computers my geeks would use, but how they would use them. Moreover, my characters couldn’t just act like nerds, they had to talk like nerds, too. So I listened, eavesdropped and made mental notes when members of my family discussed computers and technology issues. I purchased the New Hacker’s Dictionary (yes, there really is such a book!) and read it so my characters could speak in actual geek lingo. In terms of the technology, I knew where I wanted to go and had tons of ideas, but alas, many of my hopeful scenarios were squashed because they weren’t technologically feasible. But I didn’t give up. I quizzed my family ad nauseam until I found something that worked.

But the research wasn’t all about computers and technology. NO ONE LIVES TWICE also has some intricate scientific elements that needed to be as accurate as possible. I spent several weeks studying a particular aspect of the novel (sorry, can’t be more specific here without giving away the plot). I had piles of notes, papers and online sites bookmarked for reference and I even interviewed a medical doctor. Okay, I’ll confess again and admit I’m a former journalist.

In terms of the spy stuff, well, I almost joined the CIA right out of college. (I opted instead for international journalism.) I got an M.A. in international affairs with a specialty in Russian language from George Washington University in Washington, DC. I attended a year of grad school at the University of Warsaw in Poland behind the Iron Curtain when it was still the Cold War. As a student, I smuggled out Solidarity pamphlets and letters to officials in the West. Eventually, I worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and disseminated information that helped topple the Berlin Wall. So, yeah, I really, really dig the spy stuff!

Did I make things up for my novel? Um, yeah. Some. The novel is fiction, after all. But the devil is in the details and I really did try to make it as plausible and accurate as I could while providing a fun, light and entertaining read.

To sum it up, I’d say less than one-fourth of the research I did made it into the story. There were many fascinating tidbits I wanted to slip in, but I had to restrain myself. Plot, pace, humor and characterization were paramount. But I do love to research!

So, how about you? How important is accurate research in making a story both believable and enjoyable? Can you tell when an author hasn’t done his/her homework? If you are an author, how much emphasis do you put on your research?