Researching True Crime
8 November 2017 -
I hope the true crime enthusiast, or those who enjoy reading about the worst in people can appreciate the amount of research that goes into one of my books. It begins with an idea. Then I expand that idea by taking the time to research newspapers. I do this first by checking on of my favorite websites (www.newspapers.com). It's a virtual treasure-trove of information. But there is always more. I move from the website to the State of Michigan Library in Lansing. The newspapers archived there are often on microfiche, and despite the ability to see the papers on a large screen, the printing is extremely small, and it's exhausting work. Next, the State of Michigan Archives (which is in the same building) is always a good stop. They have so much to offer. In my first book To Hell I Must Go, I was able to locate the original circuit court file for the 1897 Haney murder in Williamston. The file contained an original handwritten statement by my great, great grandfather, and handwritten statement from a witness who discovered Mariah Haney's severed head on a plate and her smoldering headless corpse in the kitchen, the original handwritten sentencing by Judge Person, and an original typed and signed diagnosis by three doctors who declared Martha Haney insane. You never know what you might find there.
After visiting the library and archives, I like to gather some photographic history of the subject I'm working on. It's simply to put some faces with the story. If I decide later to add them to my book, it's easy enough to do after seeking permission from whomever holds the copyright to those.
I move into my interviews next. Scheduling those is always a challenge, because to do it right, there are so many people to contact and interview. I've learned that if I write out the key questions beforehand, I won't forget to ask them. My interviews often go for several hours, and since I have difficulty reading my own handwriting (LOL), I like to record them. Then comes the transcription, which can take hours to do.
After I've gathered much of the information I need, it's time to start writing my rough draft. For my upcoming book, I hope to find a traditional literary agent or a publisher, and to do that I have to write a book proposal. I personally look at the book proposal as more of a challenge than writing the book. Each literary agent or publisher receives thousands of book proposals each year, so I have to make my proposal stand out. That's going to be the challenge, as I don't want so self-publish my next book. While I don't need to have the manuscript completed when I submit my proposal, they often ask for a couple of chapters, so I'll need to have those done before I submit the proposal.
If all of this sounds like a daunting task, it is. But I love every minute of it. Stay tuned.