This nerdiness applies to my research in a BIG way. Don't get me wrong—I have nothing against fantasy novels where most things are made up. But to me, the best stories sound real... so real that it makes you wonder if they actually happened.
In doing research for my latest book, Time Tree: The Emergence, I researched every. last. detail. I studied wood carving, particle physics, the cost of living in rural Victorian Scotland, how to convert shillings to pounds, ways to obtain a passport under unusual circumstances, just to name a few of the hundreds of topics I learned about.
In my stories, not a bird chirps, not a breeze blows, unless I've verified that the bird really lives in that region, and the topography of the land actually lends itself to that breeze.
Don't worry, I actually enjoy it!
One morning, hubby and I were on our way out the door for our weekly date. We had decided to visit the Pittock Mansion, a fabulous old home-turned-museum in Portland, Oregon. (You might've noticed how much I love old buildings.)
Before we got there, one of my beta readers (who knows the level of detail accuracy I insist upon) sent me a message. She'd just read the passage about how Angus mixes shellac in a jar. Her question was simple: "What kind of jar did he use?"
I was brought up short. I had taken this little jar for granted! Would a rural guy like Angus have had a jar, or would it have been more like a ceramic pot or wooden cup? Were Mason jars around back then? I put on my research bra (way more effective than a "thinking cap." Just sayin.). Alas, Mason jars weren't invented until 1858, and they were American, anyway.
Finally, I found the answer: Kilner jars.
These brilliant vessels were invented in England in 1842: the perfect place and time. Crisis averted. I could go off on my date, confident that the scene was accurate.
As we drove, I was musing about whether God was happy with what I was writing. The point of the entire thing was to get my readers thinking bigger about who God is and how amazing His plan is. Could I get there? "God, do you like my story?"
We got through the museum and went into the gift shop. And what should be sitting there on the shelf... a KILNER JAR! I think the shop attendant must have thought I was weird for getting all excited about a canning jar, but y'know what? I was.
I'd never even heard of Kilner jars before that morning, when finding out they existed saved a detail in my story. There was no logical reason for a distinctly British item like that to be found at this museum—the owner had immigrated to the States as a small boy. It was highly unlikely they'd imported canning jars from across the ocean to use in their kitchen. It was far more likely that the household used Mason jars, not Kilner. Yet, there they were.
So of course I bought one. Because it wasn't just a jar. It was God saying, "I see you, nerd. I love you, and I love your story. Keep going."