Interview: Ian McDonald's research secrets revealed

Jason from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography sez, "I just got done with a new text-based interview, in fact, with British science-fiction author Ian McDonald, in which we talk in depth about his new novel 'The Dervish House' which Cory raved about last week, including a detailed look at the kind of research McDonald does in order to write books like these."

IM: What, give away all my secrets? Well, I have this avatar body I can occupy…It takes years. I read a lot. I travel a lot — and as much as I can afford. I talk to people, I read the papers. I cook the food. I buy the music, I follow the sports teams. I try to second-guess what the government will do in international politics. I learn a bit of the language. I study the religion. I study the etiquette. I try and work out what the day-to-day details are like. I watch people. I have a very strong visual memory and I can recreate an entire scene in my head and observe details. I cultivate an eye for detail. I take thousands of photographs of boring everyday things. I look at what's on sale in gas stations and what that tells you about a culture. I study the ads. I talk to more people. I get hammered on the local booze. I try to take the country's political position in the world news. I watch television. I read books for those tiny details. Is this like Method Acting? WTF are you doing with those lights?!? This takes time and intellectual and emotional commitment. I love it. Of course I get it wrong. Then again, I can write about what's going on at the bottom of my street and get it wrong…particularly my street. Oh, one other research tool. I tie bundles of memories to scents and smells. When I smell that scent again or something like it, everything in the bundle springs back into the forebrain.

An interview with Ian McDonald

(Thanks, Jason!)