Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wandering Wednesday - Mining the Past, Researching the Present

by Marcia Lee Laycock

When I first began to create the protagonist for my first novel, One Smooth Stone, it became obvious that he was a composite of many people I’d known in the past, people who, through one set of unusual circumstances or another, ended up in a tiny town in Canada’s far north.

It also became obvious that this novel had to be at least partly set in that town, Dawson City, Yukon. I had lived in Dawson for almost twelve years, so I had a lot of experience to draw from, a lot of memories to mine. I could describe what it would be like to live on the Yukon River because I had. I could capture the essence of a – 60 below day because I’d been in it. But as I wrote the story, I also realized I had a bit of research to do. It had been a while since I’d lived in the north, so there were some details I had to check.

For instance, at one point in the story, one of the characters uses a cell phone to contact the protagonist, whose only tool for communicating is a radio-phone. I was well acquainted with radio-phones since that was the only way we communicated to the outside world from our cabin in the bush. But I sat bolt upright in bed one night with the sudden realization that cell phones weren’t common when I lived there. Was it even possible to use a cell phone to connect to a radio-phone? As I settled back under my covers I made a metal list of who I should call to find out. It turned out to be quite easy – I called a Yukon operator and asked her. She was excited to help an author and gave me all the information I needed.

I also came to a point in the story where I needed to know about some police procedure. The protagonist was in the hospital but he had also just been arrested. What would that look like? Would he be handcuffed to the hospital bed? Would there be an RCMP constable stationed at the door to his room? I pondered these and other details and remembered a man I had met at a writer’s conference who was a ballistics specialist with the RCMP. I pawed through my contact list and was able to get in touch with him. Again, he was more than happy to give me all the information I needed, and a few details I didn’t know I needed to know.

My research wasn’t just about the Yukon, as I wrote One Smooth Stone. My characters wandered from there to Vancouver, B.C., and then Seattle, Washington. Since the story arc involved adoption procedures, I had to find out what the policies were in those various places. Turned out the rules were quite different from place to place, so I had to go back and adjust the story accordingly.

Writing about the Yukon posed no problem for me as far as describing the setting, but when my publisher wanted part of the story set in the U.S. I had to choose a city and then research it to make that setting just as authentic. I found a couple of good books about Seattle and then mined the internet by reaching out to some of my American friends. A couple had lived in Seattle and were quite willing to read those portions of the novel and make suggestions.

I am in the process of drawing a rough outline for the third novel in my Stone series. This one will, once again, be set mostly in the Yukon. I’m excited that my husband has agreed that we should take a trip back to our old stomping grounds so that I can do some research and writing ‘en situ.’ There really is no substitute for being there, breathing that air, taking in all those sites and sounds and smells so that it can all be transferred into the story.

I’ve often heard that saying, ‘All who wander are not lost …’ I would add, ‘they’re just doing research for their next novel!’

About One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police and especially God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness - but he finds that even there he is pursued by all of the above. 

Confronted with intriguing information and burning to know about his real parents, Alex returns to his birthplace, Seattle, Washington, where he meets Kenni, a woman whose tenacious concern angers, yet puzzles him. 

When he discovers the details of his past are more disturbing than he anticipated, the trauma sends him on the run again. 

Can Kenni convince him that he too is one small stone meant to fit in the palm of God’s hand? 

Will he concede that no matter how far you run, God will find you and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you? 

Purchase on Amazon

Watch the Trailer for One Smooth Stone

About Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia’s writing began in the attic of her parents’ home where she wrote poetry and short stories for her dolls. She says they never complained so she kept it up. Since those humble beginnings, her work has been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies in both Canada and the U.S. and has been broadcast on CBC radio. She currently writes a regular devotional column, The Spur, which goes out by e-mail to avid readers. Subscribe here
Marcia’s work has won many prizes, garnering praise from notable Christian writers like Janette Oke, Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Sigmund Brouwer. She has published four devotional books, six novels and hundreds of articles. Marcia won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her debut novel, One Smooth Stone, published by Castle Quay Books. The sequel, ATumbled Stone was also short-listed for a Word award at Write Canada in Toronto, Ontario. 
Marcia is also an inspirational speaker and teacher. She has spoken often at retreats and one day events, both in the Christian and secular realms. She teaches writing courses for InScribe Christian Writers, The Word Guild, and has taught for many community groups and libraries.
To learn more about Marcia’s writing, speaking and teaching visit her website


  1. Yes--mining the past for the present is exactly what I do in research, too--I love history and it does affect the present--a theme of many of my mysteries. Great photos.

  2. Love the Tolkien quote, Marcia, and your addition "'All who wander are not lost …’ I would add, ‘they’re just doing research for their next novel!’" The Yukon sounds like an amazing setting and rainy Settle also.