RESEARCH CAN BE MURDER by KYLIE BRANT
I think the worst writing advice I’ve ever heard is that old adage “write what you know”. What I know is not all that interesting. Oh sure, I’ve got some good material based on experience that might make an entertaining short story. If someone wants to know how to make dinner for seven with only a jar of salsa, three chicken breasts and a box of Cheerios, I’m your gal. Or for those wondering what happens when the kids decide to put the dog in the dryer (on air fluff, thank God) so I wouldn’t figure out they’d let her outside after I’d told them not to…again, I know that sort of thing.
It’s just not the kind of experience that lends itself to writing dark romantic thrillers.
How can I write what I know when my business is murder? Writing about it that is. It’s an area where one usually isn’t encouraged to go out and get some first hand experience!
Luckily, the Internet makes research easy. Before I start each book I usually buy two or three non-fiction titles online (if I don’t have subject appropriate ones in my own research library). I read these as I’m writing. I search the Internet for valid information. And very early in each book I start reaching out to experts in the area.
My books tend to have a law enforcement / forensics slant. Most police departments and FBI field offices have Public Affairs numbers staffed with veteran officers. That always provides me a good place to start. I approach them with a list of questions and invariably they refer me on to another detective who has specific experience in the subject matter I’m interested in. Waking Nightmare, my September release, takes place in Savannah. I was referred to a very helpful sergeant detective who not only answered my police procedural questions, but described the very distinctive police headquarters building in a way that helped make my story more descriptive. I’ve also received tremendous help from lab managers in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s regional forensics lab.
My November release, Waking the Dead, features a forensic anthropologist heroine. I’m not quite sure what made me think it was a good idea to write about cleaning skeletal remains, extracting DNA from bone and the feeding habits of dermestid beetles. But searching online I discovered several forensic organizations and some have searchable members lists. I made several contacts, a couple of whom helped quite a bit over the course of a book.
Expert contacts lend credibility to the story and give me information specific to the plot lines that I often can’t find in books. I know I’m not going to get everything right, but I certainly strive to!
I don’t often travel to the place I set the book first, but I did for Waking the Dead. I have a sister in Oregon who’s very outdoorsy and she and her husband drove me to McKenzie Bridge, where we hiked the Willamette Forest and crawled through caves. She also introduced me to a friend of hers who told me about the perfect cave for my story J. When I was walking through the forest the entire final scene of the book just unfolded in my mind. It was a wonderful thing!
Over the years I’ve talked to FBI agents, ex-CIA agents, SWAT officers, police detectives, forensic lab technicians, forensic anthropologists. . .the list grows with every story. I’m consistently amazed at how generous people can be with their time.
If you’ll excuse me now, I need to contact someone about a severed thumb…for research, of course!
Note From NightOwlRomance - http://www.nightowlromance.com/
The Mind Hunters Series by Kylie Brant
Purchase: Waking Midnight - Book 1 - Out 9/1/2009
Purchase: Waking Evil - Book 2 - Out 10/06/2009
Purchase: Waking the Dead - Book 3 Out 11/03/2009