Leeann Betts: The Perfect Road Trip

Posted on September 8, 2017 in Guest Author Blog

My guest blogger this week is Leeann Betts, an author of contemporary suspense novels whom I’ve recently gotten to know a bit. As summer winds down and fall colors are just around the corner, Leeann shares her take on how she satisfies her need for up close and personal research for her stories through her version of a perfect summer road trip.

The Perfect Road Trip

By Leeann Betts

pitcher of lemonadeThe summer months make me think about lemonade and road trips. And not necessarily in that order.

I love road trips. I love planning road trips because I use road trips for research.

I write contemporary suspense, so you might wonder why I need to do research. After all, research is only about historical novels, isn’t it?


Unless I’m going to write about one setting where I’ve lived all your life, I’m going to need to do some research. And even though I tend to create my own fictional settings, I still need to see what other places look like.

Here’s an example of my process. This story idea is percolating in my brain: in order to receive their inheritance, three sisters who haven’t spoken to each other in more than ten years take a road trip to return their father’s ashes to his hometown. I even have a title: Taking Daddy Home.

Here’s my process for a successful road trip:

  1. Decide where the story will take place: In my novel, Daddy died in Portland, Oregon; grew up in Portland, Maine. See the irony of living and dying in cities with the same name but on opposite sides of the country?
  2. How will I get from point A to point B? So, to research my story, I will need to drive it. Doesn’t mean I have to do it all in one trip. Maybe my book will take place at one main location, such as a beach. So I plan a trip to the specific beach, or tour a number of beaches and create a conglomerate of details to make up my own beach location.
  3. What problems will I introduce, and how does this influence my road trip? I look for the perfect place to put my character in peril of some sort. For Taking Daddy Home, I’ll check out a secluded stretch of highway for the three sisters to have a flat tire, a small town where they don’t feel welcome, a rundown motel along the interstate where they think they’re seeing ghosts, and a biker bar where they get in the middle of a gang fight.
  4. road trip highway signWhat do I want my characters to learn? I give them something to do besides just driving down the road watching the gas gauge; I create conflict between what each of the characters wants to do.
  5. Location, location, location: I glean facts from places I’ve visited and combine them to create my settings. For example, my latest Carly Turnquist mystery, Five and Twenty Blackbirds is fashioned after the town my father and step-mother, who I loved, were married in, Cave Creek, AZ. When I use real places for my settings, I visit them to get the street names, directions, and driving feel ground-level accurate.
  6. Local history, traditions, legends: I look for ways to incorporate the truth about my locations into my story—even if I’m creating my own settings.
  7. Record this information in useful ways: I take pictures, use a digital voice recorder, and make written notes. I also collect brochures and printed information and ask questions at visitor centers and museums.

Thinking about writing a story? Take a road trip! Use my outline for how to do it and the tools to gather the information you need to get started. If this inspires you, leave me a comment about a road trip you’ll plan and the book idea that birthed the trip. Already penned a novel? I’d sure like to hear about a successful road trip you’ve taken and the book that came from it.

Leeann BettsLeeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released six titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, including Hidden Assets which released the end of June. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft.

Leeann publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at www.LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital format.

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Check out Leeann’s books on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2dHfgCE