Things I Didn't Know with Liz Sauco
This is the first post in a blog series I am calling “Things I Didn't Know I Needed to Know!” In this series, I will speak to several authors about their research process for their novels and the strange things they found themselves searching the internet for at 5am!
Today, I am hosting Liz Sauco, author of Lost Blades and talking about the many, many rabbit holes she jumped into.
Thanks for being here, Liz. Can you start off by telling me a little bit about yourself and your novel?
I'm Liz! I'm a novelist who writes high fantasy with science fiction and urban fantasy elements. Which is what Blades of the Goddess is. The first book in the series is Lost Blades—a thief on the run from crimes he both did and did not commit and a ninja trying to help his country break free from the Empire get pulled into an ancient battle between magic, life, and a force that seeks to end existence itself.
I think I know more than a few people who need to put that book on the top of the TBR pile. There's a lot going on in the novel, did you have to research anything outside of your regular wheelhouse?
Oh yes, tons of things. How to create and take care of saltwater reef aquariums. Types of wood used in coffins (specifically: yellow woods). What exactly is poison on a chemical level? Steam trains. High-speed trains. Boilers. How to draw blood. I get easily distracted by questions that I feel my characters should know but I don't, and some of my characters are smarter than me, so I feel pressure to make sure I'm presenting them correctly.
I feel that; writing smarter characters can be so frustrating. Out of all the things you researched, which fact or tidbit did you find most interesting?
I was trying to figure out how much of a hassle it would be to bring a coffin on a bus. There's a bus company—I think it's in Canada, I did this research a few years back—that specifically doesn't allow “ninja weapons” on their buses (but stowing the coffin would be fine). It made me laugh.
I am tempted to research this further myself, but afraid of the consequences of knowing. Did any of that research make it into the final book?
I spent about a week researching the saltwater reef aquariums, only to put a couple of references to it in the books (a number of characters look at the aquarium, but don't know much about fish, so that research doesn't get used a lot). But every other month I have a check-in with “Ander's fish tank” in my newsletter where I do use some of that research, so it's not entirely wasted!
That's an ingenious way to make sure no research goes to waste! If anyone is interested in this, I'll have Liz's newsletter linked so you, too, can learn all about saltwater reef aquariums.
For the bus situation, a coffin is transported on a bus in one of the books—so the research was useful for that. There was a katana in the coffin, but what the bus employees don't know won't hurt them.
I think I am going to think twice about getting on a bus if I notice anyone carrying a coffin. What is your research process like?
Usually, I try to think if I know someone who would know the answer first. I know a woodworker, so I asked him the coffin question.
Oh gosh, what a conversation starter. Did he know the answer?
He told me I should look it up online. But also said pine is common. I was hoping for a more extravagant wood. Alas, I just called it “pale yellow wood” in the manuscript, as my character wouldn't know one wood from another. His girlfriend is one of my beta readers, so they are used to me asking all kind of stuff. He's also always happy to talk about wood, it was just that coffins aren't something he normally deals with. I have problems where I feel like I have to know things that are really not going to be relevant to the story.
I totally relate to that. The father of one of my characters is a woodworker, and so I also have a folder of research dedicated to wood and time wasted researching it.
The worst for me was the saltwater reef aquarium. I put my writing on hold for two weeks while I researched it.
Too relatable. So what do you do when your friends don't know the answer or you are short on friends who might know?
If they don't know the answer, they can usually point me in the right direction. Otherwise, I google and try to ensure I'm not getting my info from weird fringe groups or common misconceptions. I'll try to find multiple sources that agree with each other.
That is a sound approach. Just don't spend too much time gathering those multiple sources! Thanks so much for agreeing to this, it's been an absolute delight!
If you want to find out more about Liz or the Blades of the Goddess series, make sure to check out her website. The next book in the series, Broken Blades is releasing in a few days and you can pre-order it today on her store or pick it up at your favorite retailer. Personally, I suggest you grab Lost Blades on Campfire so that you can get all the lore and worldbuilding goodies.
I’ve always loved stories. The more fantastical, the better. Unicorns were an early favorite of mine; I must have watched The Last Unicorn a thousand times as a child, driving my parents to near insanity. I journeyed with Bilbo and Frodo to their respective mountains, flew with the dragonriders of Pern, rode with the Heralds of Valdemar (and desperately wanted a Companion. Or a dragon. Any talking animal friend, really). I devoured every book I could get my hands on – trips to Barnes and Noble were hotly anticipated.
Anime (thanks, Toonami!) and video games were other favorites. I watched Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Gundam Wing, played Zelda and Mario. Some of my earliest memories are of watching my parents play A Link to the Past and Mario 64. A Link to the Past was the first game I ever finished. I found myself endlessly fascinated with how the Zelda games fit together. Mythology also grabbed me, made me think of how other cultures viewed the world.
And then I made up stories for myself when I ran out of media to consume.
And don't forget to sign up for her newsletter so you can learn more about saltwater reef aquariums!