Katie Fforde & Research: Guest Blog

katie-fforde-author-picKatie Fforde is a true country girl at heart, living in the Cotswold countryside with her family. And she’s a huge bestseller, as well as being President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Katie believes falling in love is the best thing in the world, and she wants all her characters to experience it, and her readers to share their stories.

We readers love those stories for their warm-hearted characters, their gentle comedy and their guaranteed happy endings.

Katie sets her stories in the here and now. So she doesn’t need to do research, right?

Wrong. Katie Fforde does research too, some of it the hard way. Ray Mears survival training, anyone?

Read on for Katie Fforde’s very individual take on doing research.

Katie Fforde does Research? Yes, really

Many years ago a friend who wrote historical fiction heard me mention doing some research. She said, “But you write contemporary, you don’t need to do research.”

How wrong she was!

Starting with potting

Although I did know I would need to do research for my first book, I didn’t realise quite how in-depth one needed to be until I did it. My main character was a potter. I chose this because one of my colleagues in the whole food café where I worked was a potter, so I knew I could ask her for help. She said, “Fine, come along!”potter-potting-clay-research-wiki

I had assumed she’d let me watch her while she did things, but oh no. She was firm. “Sit here,” she said. “Get your hands in the clay.”

Twenty three books later, I am still grateful to her.

Getting my hands in the clay is vital. I need to get as involved in the subject I’m writing about as possible. If I hadn’t actually handled the clay as well as reading a lot about the subject, I would never have known what it was like to be a potter.

Moving to Chelsea


An immaculate show garden after all that hard work!

Youtube is very helpful, of course, and sometimes I do resort to that if I have to. And sometimes, however willing, you just can’t be as hands-on as you’d like to be.

In Wild Designs, I wrote about a woman who has a garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. I managed to wangle a “build up” pass, which meant I could pretend to be staff at one of the gardens and go to Chelsea during its creation.

(To earn my pass, I fetched the tea, which was a long way away from where the garden was.)


Queen Elizabeth II at Chelsea in 2012
Andy Paradise paradisephoto.co.uk


This was invaluable and I loved it! I learnt so much that I couldn’t have learnt without being there.

However, I couldn’t be present when the judging was going on, or while the Queen was looking.

I had to fudge it.

I sent my character to the Ladies.

Onwards via auction house, restaurant kitchen, veg-growing . . .

However, research is a favourite part of writing and has led me down some interesting paths. I have done work experience at an auction house — my favourite, I think.


By Dirk Ingo Franke – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32564441

I also worked in the kitchen of a top restaurant, spent a day with a woman who grew baby and very obscure vegetables, and learnt quite a lot about picture restoration.

To the most way-out research of all?

Katie Fforde Ray Mears researchBut the craziest thing was doing a Ray Mears survival course.

It was only for a weekend and I had to admit I was a writer. But during the course I learnt how to build a shelter and then demolish it so no one would know it had ever been there, and how to make fire with a fire stick — very fine cotton wool is useful here. I also learnt that, although pop-up tents are extremely easy to put up, grown men who fancy they know about tents cannot put them down again without them breaking.

In spite of getting lost while going for a wee the first night — I had to be guided back to my tent — I absolutely loved it!

Connecting with Katie Fforde

So beware of going out with Katie! You may end up in a hole in the ground! Here in the Libertà hive, we prefer warmth and comfort — and honey for tea — but we do admire the lengths Katie is prepared to go to for her books. Many thanks to Katie for sharing her research stories with us all. She’s clearly not afraid of getting her hands dirty — often literally. And it shows in the results: all those stories we readers love so much.

To find out more about Katie, why not step into her world at her website or visit her Facebook page? Katie is often on Twitter too, @KatieFforde.

Katie Fforde’s latest book is A Summer At Sea available here


Emily is happy with her life just as it is.

She has a career as a midwife that she loves. She enjoys living on her own as a single woman. But she’s also feels it’s time for a change and a spot of sea air. 

So when her best friend Rebecca asks whether she’d like to spend the summer cooking on a “puffer” boat just off the Scottish coast, she jumps at the chance.

But she barely has time to get to grips with the galley before she finds herself with a lot on her plate.

Rebecca is heavily pregnant and is thrilled to have her friend on board doing most of the work. Then there’s Emily’s competitive and jealous kitchen assistant who thinks she should be head-cook, not Emily. And there’s Alasdair, the handsome local doctor who Emily is desperately trying not to notice.

Because if she falls in love with him, as he appears to be falling for her, will she ever want her old life back again?

10 thoughts on “Katie Fforde & Research: Guest Blog

  1. Merryn Allingham

    Writers of historical fiction, including me, tend to bag research as their own, but Katie’s experiences make that claim hollow. It was great to read of her adventures.

  2. Elizabeth Bailey

    When I read survival course, Katie, I had visions of you going hand to hand on a rope and falling in the mud before climbing up one of those net things and through a wire tunnel. Rather you than me, I thought, thank goodness I write historicals! But building a survival cave and demolishing it is a wonderful skill to have, besides using it in a book. The way things are going these days, you might need one. Great blog!

  3. Jenny Harper

    I love doing research too, Katie – it really makes a book come alive, often in ways you never expected. I laughed aloud at the solution of sending your character to the loo in order to avoid meeting the Queen! Thanks for the chuckle… 🙂

  4. Elizabeth Rolls

    LOL! I’d have to research big time to write a contemporary set book. For a start my characters would need real jobs, and I’d have to find out all about that. A friend of mine who writes contemporary had to research how to get into a modern city based office building after hours. Never would have occurred to me that I needed a passcard rather than a key. Living in the middle of nowhere it’s still keys around here – when it’s locked up at all.

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