Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Blog Tour: Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimo
Welcome to the Nearly Gone blog tour! All the people at Penguin are especially excited about Elle Cosimano’s smart, but scary debut (caution: avoid reading this one before bedtime!). Gillian, the marshmallow, will definitely heed this advice.
Over the next three weeks, Elle will share the secrets behind NEARLY GONE on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday basis, so be sure to be on the lookout for new posts!
Important text full of importance is by the author, silly gif inserts are from me, Gillian.
Elle’s Guest Post
Nearly Gone isn’t just my debut novel. It’s also the first book I’ve ever written. So when people ask me what research was involved in writing this book, the answer is a little more involved than they might have expected. When I think back on the research that went into NEARLY GONE, it seems to break down into four distinct categories: physical research, emotional research, technical research, and research about the business of publishing.
For me, the physical research is the most fun. It’s all about the physical aspects of the story: setting, clothing, language, time period, etc… when I’m verifying the tangible elements of the book, or the things that make my stories factually believable. In my case, this included things like science/math principles, various manners of death, and elements of law enforcement.
My physical research for the NEARLY series led me to the Writer’s Police Academy, which I make a point to attend annually. The WPA is a four-day series of hands-on workshops for writers, instructed by forensic specialists, law enforcement professionals, and first responders. I’ve handcuffed my critique partner, navigated my way through a hostage situation in a Fire Arms Simulation, and performed presumptive blood testing using the same tools and chemicals forensic professionals use in the field. I’ve listened to stories of real life undercover narcotics officers, searched a jail cell for contraband, and discovered a mock expeditious grave in the woods.
I’ve done a ride-along with a sheriff’s deputy, observed a nighttime felony traffic stop, and attended classes taught by the nation’s foremost experts on serial killers. Most recently, in preparation to write the sequel, I toured a regional forensics lab where I learned about chain of custody, talked to fingerprint examiners, and learned about the identification process of tool marks found in crime scenes. My physical research doesn’t make me an expert on crime or law enforcement, but it makes me more competent to write compelling, believable fiction. And after spending so much time with my butt in a chair, you’d better believe these opportunities are the best parts of my job!
The next level of research for me was emotional. This was the part of the process where I had to dig deep. Not into my characters or the setting or the plot, but into myself. I had to consider the universal themes in my story – themes like loss, redemption, betrayal, and sacrifice – and explore those themes within the context of my own life. I had to dredge up my own well of experience, and reconnect with those feelings so I could bring them to the page with depth and authenticity. We’ve all experienced loss. We’ve all experienced some kind of betrayal. The raw material was all there inside me. But poking around in closed wounds isn’t an easy course of study. This is, by far, the most difficult part of my process, but also the most essential in creating a character-driven story.
Beyond the story research, technical research was an important part of my process. I didn’t come to the table with an English degree or any formal writing training. I had to learn on my own. I attended workshops and met with writing groups. I read everything I could get my hands on, paying close attention to the styles and techniques of authors I admired. And I found talented critique partners, who have helped me refine my technical skills through honest and constructive feedback.
The last stage of the research process for me was all about the business of publishing. I subscribed to industry blogs and trade publications. I made lists of my favorite authors and their books, then combed through their acknowledgments to create a list of my dream literary agents. I drafted query after query, and submitted them for critique at workshops and conferences, until I finally felt confident that both my manuscript and my cover letter were as ready as they could be.
And there you have it… how I researched my debut crime thriller in a big, fat nutshell. If you’re curious you can learn more about my experiences at the WPA (pics too!) here and here.
Nearly Gone synopsis:
Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school--a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.
Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon--she'll be next.
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About Elle Cosimano
Elle Cosimano grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the daughter of a prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rides a Harley. She majored in psychology at St. Mary's College, Maryland, and set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. She lives with her husband and two sons. Nearly Gone is her first novel.