Hi everyone! So I have something a bit different for today's post. I was asked to participate in the blog tour for the upcoming release of The Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly and so, for today you will be getting a special author guest post from the author! I will have a review up for this book separately, so be on the look out for that! For now, I hope you enjoy the guest post and be sure to check out the book! ;)
Guest Post – Cars & Research by J. M. Kelly
My father's an automotive mechanic and I grew up around old cars—mostly ones from the thirties that didn't run, but also others that did—like a 1948 Chevy Sedan Delivery. If you don't know what that that looks like, think of a cross between a min-van and a bread truck. The interior was completely torn out except for the driver's seat and a lawn chair on the passenger side. My brother and I rode on the floor in the back cargo area, sitting on blankets and being bounced around (I'm aging myself because no one would let their kids do that now!). The floorboards were so badly corroded that there were rust holes worn through and we could see the street below us as we drove along. We thought it was fun.
When I was in high school, my dad bought my brother a 1969 Mustang fastback, which was the inspiration for Crystal's car in Speed of Life. Like hers, the car was a project car. My brother got a job and funneled his wages and tips into the car while my dad rebuilt and restored it pretty much from the ground up. In the end, he had a really beautiful car—the one Crystal plans to turn hers into eventually.
I personally love the cars from the fifties and a few years ago, I owned a 1959 Studebaker Lark for a while. I'm still a bit heartbroken that we sold it when we moved to Canada, but we didn't have a garage to keep it and leaving it out in the elements is just not something someone who loves cars is willing to do. There's a line in the book where Crystal quotes her boss as saying something like, "We don't own these old cars. We just steward them for a while and then they go on to someone else." I got that from my dad and most of the "old car guys" will tell you the same thing.
The thing about writing books is that they require detail and preferably accuracy, so even with my general automotive knowledge, I had a fair amount of research to do. My father was a great source of information. I would call him up and ask something like, "I need a car repair that isn't too serious, but would cost Crystal around a hundred bucks." He'd immediately start giving me options, "How about a bad battery. She could spend a hundred on a good one. Or—" Then I would say, "That's great. Thanks. I have to go write now."
Those were the easy bits. Google and YouTube were a godsend to me for a lot of the research. I wanted a moment where Crystal's car surges while she's driving it. She had to fix it in the next scene, too. First I Googled "what makes a car's engine surge?" There were several answers, and I chose a dirty throttle valve. Then I went to YouTube and watched a video on how to clean a throttle valve. I did the same thing when she had to fill a dent, and change a tire.
You can't always count on the internet though, and if you want to be sure you've got it right, that's when your experts come in. Whenever I write a book, I always have a whole slew of experts in various fields willing to help. And I make sure I get them for anything I'm not really familiar with. Sometimes I only need the answer to one simple question. Other times, we communicate over the whole course of the novel, making sure I'm not making changes that are erroneous. Generally, if it's important, I end up having the expert read either the whole book, or at least the scenes that apply to their area of expertise.
In Speed of Life, in addition to my father reading for my car facts, I also had a former high school teacher help me with all the Spanish. She was an ESL teacher, so she was able to help me figure out what words a native Spanish speaker would use when speaking English too. In other books I've written, I've had help with boating, fishing, septic tanks, fiddle playing, musical theatre, sewing, police procedure, film photography, guitar, piano, upright bass, mandolin, and many, many more areas. The internet is a great place to start, but you can't know for sure you've got it right without help from real people who know their stuff.
Writing is a group effort and you should never shy away from asking for help. It will make your book stronger, and you'll have lots of people to than in the acknowledgements section which will make you look like you have loads of friends!
Thank you so much for this awesome post, J.M! I really enjoyed reading about how researching the old cars was helpful for your book and learning about the writing process! :)
And that's all. I will update this post when the book review post is live! But in the meantime.. be sure to check out other stops on the blog tour as well!