One of the things I loved about the book was reading about the progression of a house flip. I am a big fan of HGTV and the flipping shows on other networks (I want to meet Jeff Lewis so badly!), so of course I enjoyed reading about the process. Julia Amante also loves HGTV and home remodeling. She has written about her experience with a kitchen remodel and researching for Evenings at the Argentine Club to share with us.
Have any of you ever done a little home remodeling? Home decorating? Watched HGTV and said, “I could do that!?” Me too!
In fact, that’s exactly what I said to myself when I started writing Evenings at the Argentine Club, featuring a main character who was a house flipper. I could write about that!
The reason I was so confident was because just a few months prior to starting this novel, I had decided to remodel my tired old kitchen that came with my cookie-cutter house. I hired a general contractor, went shopping for appliances, and found a cabinet maker who coincidentally happened to be from Argentina and who was sure I’d hire him simply for that reason alone. I did hire him, but only because he called me about 50 times in one week – and the price kept going down!
I had my crew and I was ready to say good-bye to my old kitchen. Little did I know that I wouldn’t say hello to my new kitchen for six weeks. Six weeks of ordering pizza in, or cooking microwavable food on my patio, and navigating around packed boxes in my living room. Six weeks of guys tromping through my house at all hours of the morning, day and night. Six weeks of chasing my dogs who they accidently let out into the front yard almost daily.
I home school my kids, which I continued to try to do though hammering, drilling, and very, very loud boom boxes. The occasional curse word my children heard, I figured was educational too. “The man dropped a heavy beam, Honey. He doesn’t usually speak like that. Let’s think of something else we can say when we’re upset.” The state teacher that visits me every 20 days to make sure I’m really teaching was also supportive, encouraging me to allow them to practice their multiplication tables on the old drywall. It would come out anyway when they rewired for lighting and moved plumbing. So, we wrote on the drywall, and created art projects on the concrete floor.
For six weeks our home was turned upside down, but we made the best out of the slight inconveniences. And it was worth it, because at end of that time I had a gorgeous new kitchen, and a bunch of notes that I could use in a book, if I chose. Always important for an author.
My poor husband not only put up with all this so I could have a new kitchen, but a couple of months later when everything was complete, and I started to research home flipping, and watched A&E's Flip This House everyday, he allowed me to use his TiVo to record the shows (yes, allowed. I think he prefers his TV/TiVo to food). This was after I assured him that I was watching the program as research for my novel, not because I intended to remodel any other part of our house.
Bringing in personal experience, as I was lucky enough to be able to do with my kitchen remodel, is what makes a novel come to life. But researching is also important. I spent hours actually scanning repo websites as my character would do in the novel. I visited a couple of the homes that were going to be auctioned off to see what they looked like inside. And I bought and read Armando Montelongo’s book on flipping properties. All this was actually a lot of fun.
As you read Evenings at the Argentine Club, you (hopefully) won’t notice all this research and it will all be part of the background of the story. My goal is that you will feel the characters come to life; that everything they do will seem real. Spending time living in my characters’ shoes is part of the process, and helps me create a better story. And if I happen to get a new kitchen out of the deal . . . who am I to complain?
My next novel will be set in a winery. And I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having researching that book!
After putting this post together, I began to think about my Blue Monday post for Labor Day, and hit a wall. Then I scrolled through this post and realized that all my graphics have blue in them! So it's a stretch, but happy Blue Monday! Sally is pushing the definition this week too, so go check it out!
Come by next week for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week festivities. I have another guest author, an interview with a really cool book blogger, and three book giveaways!