6 Months to Release: All About Research!

It’s Feb. 24, which means today marks six months until the release of YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED!

I’ve been counting down the months leading up to release with behind-the-scenes information about the book. In case you missed any of the previous features, they included:

And this month is all about research! I don’t know about you, but I love digging in to new and interesting topics. For this book, I started out with a basic premise: a girl gets on a plane and lands 25 years later. That left a number of questions to be answered and led to some fascinating and unexpected research.

How would an airport handle it if a plane popped into the air out of nowhere?

Obviously to answer this question I needed access to a commercial airline pilot! Fortunately, a fellow writer in my PitchWars 2017 group connected me with her husband, who graciously answered this and all of my other questions, including how planes and airports operated in 1995 vs. present day. What I love about talking directly with experts is that you can have all of your questions lined up, and then you end up learning even more fascinating information. That’s what happened as I talked with Jeff. He basically gave me an outline for how the first chapter of the book would play out. And our conversation further inspired the character of Art, my plane groupie who listens in to the pilots talking to air traffic control and clues Jenny in to what’s happening before the rest of the passengers have any idea something’s wrong.

As I continued to draft and revise the book, I also consulted aviation glossaries, listened to sample flight conversations guiding landings, and researched the rules for filing a flight plan.

What are Jenny’s goals, and how will this time jump complicate them?

I didn’t immediately know Jenny would be a future journalist, but once I researched which jobs had changed the most in the past 25 years and saw the decline in newspaper reporters specifically, I knew it was the perfect fit. (I also found a number of jobs that are now obsolete due to technological advances, and a couple of those come up in the Flight 237 support group.)

While I was a public relations minor in college (which is part of the journalism school) and am fully versed in AP Style and news writing, I haven’t ever worked on a paper. So that was fun to dig into as well.

What did the people who lost someone on Flight 237 but wanted to move on with their lives do?

As everyone on the plane has been missing for 25 years, their families all believed they were dead. In some cases, for various reasons, family members had them declared dead, which creates some interesting dynamics. I read up on all kinds of missing persons cases and the circumstances in which you can have someone declared dead—and what happens if they return. Talk about awkward!

What’s changed since 1995?

The biggest—and most fun!—question to explore. I was a teenager myself in the nineties, but I did not rely on my own memories as they can be deceptive, particularly when you’re trying to remember when exactly something happened. I spent countless hours double-checking dates for movies, TV shows, actors, songs, and any other pop culture references to ensure they were from before Aug. 2, 1995. That part was simple.

The trickiest part was the technology and finding the right balance for Jenny. Just because something existed doesn’t mean that Jenny would have been using it regularly. Take cell phones, for example. In the movie Clueless, released in July 1995, all the teens have cell phones. But those are rich kids in L.A. In suburban St. Louis, where Jenny lives, you were more likely to see pagers, if anything. And then there’s the internet. It existed, of course, but it was sooo different from what it is today. It was dial-up, and it took forever to find anything. In my senior yearbook (1996), it said, “Now it is possible for library patrons to gain internet access.” 😂

But this should not be confused with computer use. Teens in the nineties used computers for all kinds of things—just mostly offline at that point. According to PEW Research Center, by October 1995, 18 million American homes were online, but only 3 percent of online users had signed on to the World Wide Web. If you’re interested, I have links to a few articles about internet usage on my book page.

Other fun nineties research: fashion (so Jenny could be appropriately confused by what everyone is wearing now) and popular phrases, some of which may appear in the book 😉. Cha-ching! It’s the bomb! What’s the 4-1-1? Yadda yadda yadda…

Perhaps the oddest thing I spent hours researching is the fist bump. There’s a moment in the story where another boy starts to fist bump Dylan and Jenny flinches, thinking he’s about to punch him. I was sure fist bumping wasn’t a regular thing in the nineties, but once my editor questioned it, I went down a fascinating research rabbit hole. It turns out that the fist bump has been around since the 1970s; basketball player Fred Carter is given early credit for starting it. Others say the Wonder Twins cartoon, and others mention boxing rings, but it didn’t overtake high fives until the Obamas famously fist bumped in 2008. There are a crazy number of articles about it! It’s interesting how something so common now really became an everyday part of our culture so recently. But again, like so many things I researched, it’s not that it didn’t exist, just a question of whether it would have been a part of Jenny’s world.

As I mentioned in the seven months to release countdown, I also watched CNN’s The Nineties and The 2000s documentary series, which gave excellent recaps of those two decades and major world events Jenny would have missed. Obviously the book doesn’t go into every significant event over the past 25 years, but there are a number that come up.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse inside my research process! Let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

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