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How long does it take to research a book?

 
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Great to 'meet' an author.  I'm always curious how long the research takes for an undertaking such as this.  Look forward to learning more, cuz...books!
 
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How long does research take?

A general answer is 'years' -- because there are parts of my life in there from many years ago, such as St. Louis and San Diego, jobs I've held, people I've known.

But in terms of penguins and anti-whaling activism and Earth First! research, I'd say 2-3 years.

The book was inspired by a penguin census volunteer effort I participating in for a week down in Patagonia, on the Argentina side. It took place at Punta Tombo, which at the time was the largest Magellanic penguin colony. I recently returned and will attached some photos. Dee Boersma is the researcher who has been working down there for more than 25 years (check out https://www.washington.edu/research/research-centers/center-for-penguins-as-ocean-sentinels/) and is an inspiration. She and her team have done amazing work in documenting the lives of these penguins and their many threats -- and she has helped cordon off a good portion of the waters down there to fishing, which is a major threat.

While I was there I had a vision of a man on the run from the law washing ashore. And a researcher harboring him and eventually joining him.

That man was inspired by Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, who I met as part of my research at an animal rights conference in LA many years ago. That experience also made it into the book -- a life-changing experience.

But even with all this research, the bulk of the novel is imagination. Research grounded it but imagination is what connects this to the larger, never-ending battles between evil and good.

Now I'll try to dig up on some pictures.

PS: You can download PDF excerpt of the book at this link:
https://ashlandcreekpress.com/download/TouristTrail_sample.pdf

Or visit this page:
https://ashlandcreekpress.com/books/touristtrail.html
 
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Welcome John!  I've always had a love for good books, either fiction or non-fiction, but I admit I particularly enjoy fiction when it's clear that the author's done their research well. Sure, the nature of fiction is to "make up a story", but when it's based on an era, or real life, I like to think I'm not being handed bull-shit, so I'm not at all surprised when you say that a book could take 2-3 years of research. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right," according to someone.
 
John Yunker
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Thanks Jay.

And I knew the penguin researchers would be reading it so I had to make sure it was accurate!

Speaking of penguins, here are some pictures from Punta Tombo...

Most penguin species do not live near or on the ice. These guys nest in dirt burrows that may be based as far as a mile inland, though they prefer oceanfront real estate.

They are amazing birds. They swim up to 100 kilometers at a time to feed for their chicks. And they are struggling to find food given the overfishing that's happening everywhere.
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View of Punta Tombo
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Magellanic penguin
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Magellanic penguin burrows
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Penguin close-up in a burrow
 
S.M. King
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This is so interesting!  And the photos are lovely.  Everything that surrounds this book makes it sound interesting to read.  I don't think people often think of what happens between the story idea in someone's brain, and the work and diligence that comes after to flesh that out with true data and recreating close to reality.  With sci-fi, fantasy and otherworldly type writing, the writer can create their own reality.  Writing something grounded in the real world means far more factual work I think.

Do you find that being out in natural surroundings boosts your creative thought process, as well as being out of your normal 'comfort' area?  It has felt that way to me over the years, so I was just curious.  Can't wait to learn more and will check out the excerpt, thank you.



 
John Yunker
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Yes, I think it helps to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I've often heard the saying "write what you know," which I agree with, to a point. I think you also need to write what you don't know, or want to know, or will never know. I find the books that I return to again and again often leave me with more questions than answers.

The penguins ultimately led to this novel. To see the world through their eyes, to get a sense of what challenges they face day in and day out, it was the beginning of a journey I'm still very much on today. I wanted people to feel for them the way I feel for them.

And as for travel, I do think it's great if you can visit the places you want to write about, but I wouldn't say you HAVE to do that. In my second novel I wrote several chapters that take place in Namibia, and I've never been. I certainly did my best to research the region remotely -- and Google Maps can really help in this regard -- and I was inspired by an actual seal rescue group in South Africa that I got to know, also remotely. I still hope to visit one day...

PS: If you like environmental literature, I should mention a blog/journal that we host at www.EcoLitBooks.com. There are a number of us who review books that inspire us -- and we also post writing opportunities for those who are writing environmental and animal-themed fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.
 
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