How to research 'Feedback' or spies for a novel
There was a mixture of research strategies taken to write the spy adventure novel Feedback.
Number one - The story idea came from watching television:
I came up with story idea while watching a documentary about people who had received organ transplants and how they suddenly liked classical music or Mexican food. I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and then began the ‘what if’ process. What if good guys got the organs of a spy or a secret service agent, and what if bad guys wanted top secret information? I conjured up scenarios of secret government facilities creating a program where military personnel and spies were not allowed to be buried, instead their organs harvested and put into other soldiers. Because I was writing young adult fiction at the time, I chose to tell the story of three teens who get the organs of a spy and how they deal with having to save the world when they just want to get on with their lives.
Number two - The heart and warmth came from a sports hero:
The process of organ transplants was researched from “To The Edge and Back” by Chris Klug. His story is about going from organ transplant survivor to Olympic snowboarder. I wanted to write an action story but I also wanted it to have real emotion. There was a lot of information that you can’t get through medical journals, such as how he and his family felt every time they turned up at hospital only to be told that the organ had been given to someone else, or how someone treats you like a drug addict if you have a liver disease, or how you couldn’t travel any further than a few hours from the hospital in case ‘the call’ comes in. Also the true emotion that someone has to die in order for someone to live, and that sort of detail wasn’t in the survival journals I read. I’m glad I read this book to be able to inject that sense of sweet regret into my characters.
Number three - They spy business information came from the internet:
Researching spies was fun and scary. Particularly because I was researching online where I was forever looking over my shoulder expecting men in black suits to take me and my computer away. I mean, I had to research what a suitcase bomb looked like and how it was made. And then information on submarines and biochemical warfare. It was fun, but as I said, scary that someone might take that information as anything other than research for a teen adventure novel.
Number 4 - The organ donation information came from medical journals:
I also read medical journeys about organ transplants so that I could be practical with what the kids could do after surgery. There was no point giving one of the kids a lung transplant for example. The recovery time is just too long. I had to find which organs patients recovered for the fastest and that turned out to be kidney and liver. And kids recovered faster according to the journals I read. It was my mother who read the preview copy of Feedback and suggested that I add in the mobile medical unit that greets the kids at their homes after they save the world. She thought that so much exertion after surgery would have busted their stitches, and she was right. It added a whole new level, and more research to find out names of instruments used in hospitals.
Number five - The descriptions came from a holiday:
Sometimes the detail comes from talking to actual people and visiting real places. Feedback is based in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to visit LA while on holidays, and I got talking to a man at the airport who was telling me about his theories about the highways. I can’t remember where I read that government buildings have three foot concrete curbs to prevent trucks from ramming into them, but sure enough I was walking through the streets and saw out front of a government building a three foot high curb. I have to admit that the field trip was the most exciting part of the research.
And one thing that couldn’t have made it into the book without actually being there to experience it is that I watched from the LA hotel a news report about the Santa Anna winds. The winds were just perfect for my story line as I needed a reason for the terrorist to want to locate the bombs, so I did more research on the time of year they struck, which way they swept across the country. If I hadn’t been in LA that day, the story would have a gaping plot that I couldn’t have fixed.
by DL Richardson
Ethan James, Florida Bowman, and Jake Inala are three teenagers who need organ transplants. When they receive the organs of deceased CIA agent, Dylan Black, they inadvertently take on the task of completing the mission Dylan died midway through, that of deactivating bacteria bombs threatening millions of lives. The teenagers are kidnapped by a man who believes in the theory of feedback, that information is retained in the memory of organs, in this case those of the dead CIA agent. And their captor will stop at nothing to get the information retained inside their bodies. With their lives under threat, the memories stored in the CIA agent’s mind begin to awaken within each of them, except the one piece of information they are abducted for - the location of the bombs.
Read an excerpt:
I jumped in surprise when a car came up on my left and honked its horn, whizzing by in a blur of chrome. “I don’t think so, buddy.”
I accelerated. If the cops wanted to stop me, they’d have to use air support. Getting myself on TV only added to the thrill of the chase.
Concern over my reckless driving should have registered, but it didn’t. The speedometer now read 140 miles per hour. AC/DC screeched about “Hells Bells,” and the rain didn’t lessen. If I lost control now, I’d smash into the concrete barriers lining the highway. It’d be game over. No way I’d survive the impact. What a shame this last train of thought wasn’t on whether I’d survive or not, but on whether I’d care.
Lightning bolts exploded across the sky and lit up the windshield. In that brief flicker of visibility, I spotted the plane on fire, blocking the highway—and the spaceship blowing up a bridge with luminous green laser beams. I let go of the wheel, idly watching the Lamborghini plow into the concrete barrier. Metal fragments and orange flames danced in front of me. The sound of something exploding boomed through the speakers. The words GAME OVER flashed across the television screen.
The plane had been okay, but the spaceship insulted me. For sure, the makers of the game reckoned it’d be a hoot to throw unrealistic obstacles in my path.
I tossed the Xbox controller aside and scratched my numb backside. My life couldn’t get any worse…might as well go to school.
D L Richardson writes speculative fiction. She currently has three young adult teen novels published and one short story anthology. Her first two YA novels The Bird With The Broken Wing and Feedback were best sellers and highest ranked YA fiction at OmniLit. Her third YA novel Little Red Gem was runner up on Paranormal Books Best Standalone YA book of 2013 and the book trailer was featured on USA Today website.
Upcoming works include Curious, a limited edition bundling of three YA novels, a serialized science fiction novel, Fear of Falling Further the second anthology of short stories, and Poison in the Pond, a novella adapted from of an unpublished novel written in 1996.
She lives in Australia on the south coast with her husband and dog.
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