Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Post: Author Leah Cypess Talks Research

Today, we have the incredible Leah Cypess here with us sharing some of the fun she's had doing research for her newest novel, Nightspell, which is the sequel to her enchanting debut, Mistwood that came out last year. 

Last week, over at See Michelle Read, I talked about the first stage of writing Nightspell: the part where I actually wrote it. Today I’m going to talk about editing – or, more specifically, a part of editing I both hate and love: research.

Nightspell takes place in a medieval-style court, and includes two hunting scenes: one with dogs, the other with falcons. Because there are crucial plot points that take place during the course of those hunts, I couldn’t get away with a vague, “And they went riding off and had a grand time hunting! And then they came back.” So I had to find out how actual hunts in medieval times worked.

For hunting with dogs, this was surprisingly difficult. I’d read so many historical novels and fantasy novels with hunt scenes that I almost felt like I did know how they worked. But actually, all I knew was something along the lines of “they went riding off and had a grand time and then they came back!” Also that there were horses and dogs involved. And trumpets. And, you know, deer.

After much searching, I found an out-of-print book called The Art of Medieval Hunting: The Hound and the Hawk by John Cummins. This book was perfect: while not exactly a riveting read (though it is fascinating in parts, especially if you skip the detailed descriptions of the differences between various types of hunting dogs) it told me exactly what I needed to know to write my hunting scene.

Researching hunting with falcons, on the other hand, it was surprisingly easy. Turns out falconing is still practiced as a sport; my challenge was not finding a book about falconing, but choosing which guidebook to read. (The one I ended up with was The Art & Practice of Hawking by EB Michell.) Not only that, but I had an inside scoop: I had once taken lessons in flying falcons, at the British School of Falconry in Vermont:

(you will note that I am not in the picture. No one will ever see that picture of me. Ever. Just go look at my author photo and imagine a falcon on my shoulder.)

There were lots of other little pieces of research I had to do along the way, of course (topics included caves, silver, and mirrors). But hunting was the one that probably took the largest amount of time. And – thanks to the British School of Falconry – it was also the most fun.

This post is part of the Nightspell Blog Tour with The Teen {Book} Scene. Click the graphic below to follow along with the rest of the tour.

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