Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Dollhouse to Die For by Cate Price: Guest Author & Giveaway

A Dollhouse to Die For


Research – A little goes a long way

by Cate Price

You will, or should, only use a fraction of the research that you do for a book.

For A DOLLHOUSE TO DIE FOR, I probably have about 45 single-spaced pages of research on Victorian dollhouses. From this plethora of information, I probably put a tenth of it into the first draft, slashed about half again after the first revision, cut more during copy edits, and even more before the final galleys.
So was all that time wasted?

Not really, because you don’t know what will prove useful until you educate yourself. I took every single book out of my local library on the history of dollhouses, on decorating and design, and how to build a dollhouse. It was while I was reading about dollhouse construction that I came to one section about wiring, and how the wrong methods could prove fatal. To most people, those words would send a chill down their spine. To a mystery writer, it was an “Aha!” moment. Now I knew how my victim would die!
If you don’t know much about your subject, research can be a double-edged sword. You have to do more, but you also don’t have any preconceived ideas. The facts that jumped out to me as interesting are hopefully the ones that will appeal to readers who also may not know much about Victorian dollhouses.

When you see information repeated over and over in various books, you begin to realize what’s important. For instance, dollhouses are usually a one inch to one foot scale, or sometimes ½ inch to one foot scale, (although some of the older dollhouses didn’t always follow this rule). Several books stressed that it wasn’t the choice of scale so much as the fact that everything should be in the same scale. It sounded compelling enough to me to have one of my characters actually say that line.
I happen to enjoy reading books where I can learn something, but there’s a fine line between providing enough description, and what we politely refer to in the business as an “info dump”.

It’s tempting, because after all, now you know so much about this subject and you want to show the world how much hard work you’ve done. But just a few authentic details sprinkled throughout will help establish credibility. Use the most relevant facts, and put them into your own words.
Of course, it’s ideal if you can find yourself a real expert. Luckily for me, the former president of my romance writers’ group, Adele Downs, owned a successful doll business for many years. I treated her to lunch and gleaned some fascinating information. For instance, that it’s possible to have wallpaper custom made to match the antique wallpaper of your dollhouse. She also talked about some of the extreme collectors she’d met, and how they would spend vast sums of money on their hobby, leading to problems like bankruptcy and divorce. It was the inspiration for one of the main characters in the book.

There are readers out there who will be savvy about your subject matter, and who will throw your book across the room if you get it wrong. I consider it my duty as an author to do the best job I can to be accurate. I may still not get it quite right, but at least I’ve made a good effort.
One caveat: Research can prove to be so much more fun than slogging away at your manuscript, but there comes a point where you have to stop. Do enough to get started and spark some ideas, and note the books that you found most useful so you can go back and do more if necessary.

So was all that research wasted if you only use a tiny percentage in the final book? No, because now you sound like you know what you’re talking about. And the big plus? You’ve taught yourself something new.
Happy writing!

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Blurb: Daisy Buchanan thinks of her shop, Sometimes a Great Notion, as more than just a business. For her, it’s a haven of vintage sewing notions and other treasures, excellent coffee, and camaraderie. But when an antique dollhouse provokes some bizarre behavior on the part of a customer, Daisy makes it her business to find out what secrets are hidden behind its tiny doors….

At an estate auction, Daisy is delighted to find the perfect present for a young girl she knows—a charming dollhouse in need of restoration. But when local collector Harriet Kunes tries to strong-arm Daisy into selling it, she’s in for a shocking—and deadly—surprise.

After an intruder breaks in and tries to steal the dollhouse, Daisy wonders why everyone has developed such an obsession over it. As she builds her collection of clues, she suspects that the miniature Victorian holds the key to a second unsolved murder, and soon she stumbles across much more than she bid on….

Giveaway: Did your childhood include a special dollhouse? I still have mine and can vividly recall watching my father build it for me. Tell us about yours by noon eastern on Friday, May 9th, for the chance to win a paperback copy of A Dollhouse to Die For. (US entries only, please.)

13 comments:

  1. I did not have a doll house. Thank youfor the chance to win.
    jslbrown2009(at)aol(dot)com

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  2. Oh I did. My dad built mine too and we put the inside wall in backwards, so the 'wallpaper' never matched right! Thanks!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. My father was very good at building things like desks, but he never tried his hand at a dollhouse for me.
    libbydodd@comcast.net

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  4. Oh my! We love it
    Snorts,
    Lily & Edward

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  5. I LOVE dollhouses!!! My Dad built me my first one when I was in first grade. It was not to any scale, and was only four rooms but I loved it! Actually, my kitten "lived" in it most of the time. I made furniture out of cardboard and paper and colored it with crayons. It fueled my creativity like nothing else. Then, when I discovered the book 'The Borrowers', I was hooked on tiny houses and built several dollhouses over the years, many of which I donated for charity auctions.

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  6. i never had a dollhouse but I think that they are delightful and wonderful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  7. Dollhouses are so lovely but I never owned one. I would have enjoyed this pastime very much. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  8. I did not have a dollhouse, but I did have a playhouse outside.

    Kimberlee
    girllostinabook@hotmail.com
    www.girllostinabook.com

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  9. Can you enter me in the givveaway even tho I never had a doll house? I was born in 1939 and my mother divorced my father before I turned 1. We were too poor to have a doll house for me. But I made sure my daughter had one. Your book sounds good and I'll be buying a copy if I don't win one. Thank you.,

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  10. No, I never had a doll house, my daughters had one although it wasn't like the one that is described here, it was a plastic one, from a large retail store. Thanks for the chance to win.
    momzillasteel@gmail.com

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  11. I remember having a doll house as a child--and I seem to remember that it was metal with plastic furniture. Could that be?
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  12. I always wanted a dollhouse, but I was never lucky enough to have one.......

    thank you for the giveaway!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

    ReplyDelete