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fans absolutely adore but they all require fact checking. ‘Let’s face it: writing is a job where you sit alone in a room like a hermit mouse, laptop burning into your crotch until you have a manuscript,’ Hawa says. ‘So, it’s exciting to break up the monotony with research. The Lazarus Effect featured a mummified body in a drain so I spent quite some time climbing into filthy sewage pipes and learning what a “culvert” was. I also enjoy doing autopsies any chance I get – cause of death and suspicious circumstances take on new meanings when your investigative tool is an actual corpse. One of the deaths in my new book The Score is a reimagining of an interesting case I worked on at the pathologist’s office when I lived in Botswana. The death was ruled accidental but it was fun twisting and remoulding the situation to one that fitted the plot.’ Lauren Beukes is another author who is known for doing meticulous research all over the planet (it’s partly her fault for setting her stories in cities on the other side of the world), and frequently has to set up excursions with fixers to find specific information and take reference photographs. ‘When I went to Detroit on a second research trip for my novel Broken Monsters, I hired Robert-David Jones, the hip young artist who’d showed me around the last time, to play tour guide,’ she says. ‘He’d previously taken me urban exploring in evocative abandoned places, to underground art events and backyard barbeques and Santeria shops. This time he was waiting to pick me up at the airport in a big black van – the kind serial killers use. I tried to laugh it off. “Nice murder wagon!” I said as I hopped in, frantically calculating exactly how well I knew this guy anyway. ‘“It’s not a murder wagon,” he said. “It’s a hearse. I borrowed it from my neighbours who run a family funeral home. Sorry I was late, they had to drop off a dead old lady 20 minutes ago.”’ ★


The trick was turning the very pleasant week we enjoyed into a horrifying and traumatising experience for our poor protagonists.

Although life experiences are often very useful for a writer to pillage for stories, sometimes they still have to venture out in person to find answers to questions. ‘Normally I would just sit at my desk and consult the Internet, past experience and my imagination but, this year, Sarah and I decided to meet in Paris for a few days to find locations and scenes for our fifth S.L. Grey novel, which sees two unprepared tourists from Cape Town visit Paris in February,’ says Louis Greenberg, who collaborates with Sarah Lotz on a series of utterly chilling horror novels under the pseudonym S.L. Grey (the first of which was The Mall in 2011). ‘We found a flat that would be the ideal spot to rent for our holidaying protagonists and visited a waxworks museum, which of course could be rendered very creepily, and felt first-hand how cold the weather can be there in February. The trick was turning the very pleasant week we enjoyed into a horrifying and traumatising experience for our poor protagonists.’ He enjoyed the experience so much that he did it again: ‘I did similar site reconnaissance in Kingston upon Thames for my new solo novel, drifting around learning the streets from my agoraphobic protagonist’s compulsive perspective and finding and photographing buildings and locations for the novel’s scenes. Now I’m addicted to location scouting and hope to do it again for upcoming novels, budget allowing.’ Authors don’t always have to travel far and wide to do research but they do often have to step out of their comfort zones to find answers to key bits of information. Hawa Golakai is from Liberia but spent over a decade in Cape Town, where she trained and worked as a medical researcher in immunology. Her first novel, The Lazarus Effect, is set in Cape Town and is the story of an investigative journalist who has visions of a teenage girl that she begins to research under the pretext of working on a story. Hawa’s background enables her to pepper the plot with scientific nuggets that crime-fiction

OBRIGADO 39 Winter 2015  

My Coffee, My Life!

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