By Sue Ann Jaffarian
Earlier on this blog Candy Calvert talked about research and the things we learn to make our books authentic. I love research and one of the things I love most about it is how happy most experts are to help you with it.
Take yesterday, for instance. The head litigation partner of the law firm where I work came dashing into my office to discuss attorneys, disbarment, and motives for murder, all because I asked him if he would help me out. Now this is a man who probably bills at $500+ an hour and he came to my office, sat across from me and, with great excitement, discussed for thirty minutes how to authentically beef up the motives of some of the attorneys in my next book.
When writing Too Big To Miss, which is set in Orange County, California, an Orange County detective graciously gave me a hour of his time to discuss local police procedures when handling a suicide, how bodies are identified in Orange County, and his cop gut feeling if he were investigating the murder in the book. When I wanted to describe a bullet wound, I asked a former cop who'd been shot to tell me about how it felt and looked (and yes, he showed me his scar!). Information about collecting lunch boxes used in The Curse of the Holy Pail, came from the acknowledged expert on lunch boxes who lived in Texas. But my most interesting and extensive research so far was for one of the main characters in my series who is a paraplegic. Yep, you guessed it, I interviewed several men about the same age in wheelchairs about every aspect of their lives, including love and sex. And one even allowed me to follow him around a couple of days so I could see how he handled the most mundane tasks of daily living.
People willing to help writers are everywhere. All you have to do is ask. And if someone says no, ask someone else. But when you ask, ask the experts, not someone who may know or might have read about it or heard about it third hand, or, horror of horrors, saw it on CSI. Authors with questions should take the time to go to the source. One of the things that bugs me as both a writer and a reader is when an author uses faulty information in a book. It makes me wonder if they were misinformed by well-meaning friends or just lazy, or both. Research is pretty simple; if you want to know about jay walking laws in Appleton, Wisconsin, contact the Appleton, Wisconsin, police department. Believe me, they will be happy to help you get it right.
My 5th Odelia Grey novel involves a corn maze in Massachusetts. I have already made contact with the owner of the maze and in September I’ll be winding my way through towers of corn trying to get a feel for the experience. Oh yeah, and if I find my way out of the maze, I just might make it to a family wedding the next day. Talk about multi-tripping.