Reseach

One of the consistent comments I have been receiving on my debut novel, Judas the Apostle, is that it is very well researched. Before I get into this, I do want to clear up one misunderstanding. Some of the traditional media have begun to characterize the book as “about Judas Iscariot”. While I’m grateful for the coverage, this is not correct. The Judas piece of the story is the back story. An ancient jar-some 2000 years old- is found in the Tunisian Mountains during WWII inscribed with the name Judas Iscariot. The story is about three generations of the Lejeune family from Madisonville, Louisiana and their relationship to the jar. It’s about what the heroine, Cloe Lejeune, finds in the jar. It’s historic. It’s earthshaking. She battles a billionaire across three continents for what’s in it. So the novel is an international thriller with a biblical back story for intellectual heft. It reveals some very interesting facts about the most reviled character of all time but it’s not about him.

Ok, now I feel better. Research. I personally want to be entertained by a novel but I also like to be informed. The research is the key to this. With so many research sites on-line there is really no excuse for not carefully investigating your topic. The sharper and more careful the research the more credible your work will be. I would say that you should have at least two sources for anything you present in your book as a fact. Using a source like Wikipedia is great but you should at least double source. A second source on a biblical point might be the Catholic Encyclopedia. Certainly scholarly tombs can lend support and context. I think there are certain elements of good fiction that must be credible to be really well accepted. The story can be made up but some pieces must be real. For instance, in JTA, the heroine’s father, Thib Lejeune in WWII is a paratrooper on his way to a night jump during the Battle of El Guettar in the Tunisian mountains. Well, how does he get to the jump site? He flies, of course, but in what? I had to do  the research and thus the information on the Douglas C-47 Sky Train plane was included in the novel. I had to learn how many paratroopers it could hold, how far it could fly and all that. It was like I was planning the logistics of the mission. But if I had just said they blinked themselves to the target, or worse, had said they flew but had no idea if the technology of the time would accommodate the mission I would have had million tweets about how poorly researched the book was.

So that’s the point. Make up what needs to be fiction but those things that need to be fact to bracket the fiction, research them carefully. Entertain and inform. Best.

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About vrmayhalljr

Van R. Mayhall Jr. is the senior partner in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana law firm where he practices corporate and business law and handles selected litigation. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, he was educated at Louisiana State University and Georgetown University. He and his wife, Lorri, have three grown children and enjoy boating on Lake Pontchartrain.
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