Today we begin our research series with a guest post from USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn. You may know her as a writer of romance and women’s fiction, but she loves writing on the dark side too, as you’ll see if you read on.
Handcuffed? Patricia McLinn comes clean
I was put in handcuffs back in August.
That was after I made another car spin out in a PIT maneuver. Though the handcuffs weren’t because of spinning out the other car. They were because, when asked to leave the bar, I belligerently replied, “Why should I?”
Nope, these things were not on the page (or computer screen) and they didn’t happen to my characters (though they might in the future).
They were part of the annual Writers Police Academy in Green Bay, Wis.
We also had classes on
- foods that can become poisons (want to come over for dinner?)
- preparing for trial
- fatal traffic accident reconstruction (complete with medical helicopter arriving and departing)
- and so much more.
The PIT (Precision Immobilization Technique) is designed to stop a fleeing car during a pursuit. I did well at our low-speed training … except I wanted the whole thing to go faster. Passing the bad-guy’s car isn’t part of the maneuver. Oops. But, while some students were leery of contacting and spinning the other car, I liked that … a lot. The handcuffs/belligerent-in-the-bar-scene was part of a class covering arrest methods.
Just an Author’s Research Weekend
All in a weekend’s work for an author.
Or all in a birthday gift for my author friend Anna Sugden. Her wonderful husband, Doc Cambridge, gave her the conference and the trip from the UK as a birthday present. Isn’t that romantic? We all thought so.
Yes, we authors are strange creatures.
I frequently forget how strange.
Strange? Authors? Try the Writer Brain
The Writer Brain [click to read more]
Early on in my career, another newbie author was stuck in a historical romance. She said she couldn’t get her characters out of a tent. She’d gotten them into that tent, but darned if she could get them out. There were numerous conversations over the long weekend of a retreat about how to move those characters. For some reason, she didn’t like my idea to burn down the tent. (I started writing romances, but might always have been destined to branch out to include mysteries.)
Can you imagine a weekend’s worth of earnest discussions about how to move people who don’t exist out of a tent that doesn’t exist? It made perfect sense to us.
Research into bodies (dead)
I just got off the phone with one of my closest friends. Did we talk about family, health, vacations, kitchen renovations, gardening?
We talked about how I was going to introduce a dead body into a story early enough to please those readers who otherwise might get impatient, when a bunch of things need to happen before the body gets dead.
Isn’t that what you talk to your friends about?
Research into heroes (very much alive)
With one romance, I knew the hero had a secret that had scarred him, despite his appearing quite well-adjusted. Could not figure out what the secret was. I tried showers, computer solitaire, vacuuming, all efforts to bore my brain and the recalcitrant character into cooperating.
I tried weeding. The threat “I’m going to weed until I get this answer” usually makes it pop right out. Nothing. I called writer friends from California to Arkansas to Boston to Atlanta.
Finally — finally! — I was talking to a writer friend who said “Wait a minute, I have to put this bug in the toilet to drown it.”
And there was the secret.
No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.
I will tell you the book is A New World.
And what a writer brings to it all . . .
A couple years ago, I took a week-long course on forensics with a company that does training in law enforcement, and had decided to try a class with writers.
The instructor was expert in law enforcement best-practices for what usually happens. Almost all my questions started with, “But what if…?” and spun out less likely/smarter perpetrator scenarios. He begged me to never take up a life of crime because, “You are the devil’s spawn.”
Nah, just a writer.
As far as I know they haven’t held another course for writers.
But you’re still coming over for dinner, right? I have a few things I want to try from that food-into-poison class.
Well, Patricia . . .
Really sorry, but I don’t think we can find the time to come over for dinner right now. So busy with blogs and … er… trying to start a healthy eating regime. Not absolutely sure dinner at your place would fit in with that. Kind of you to invite us, though. I think 😉
Seriously, huge thanks to Patricia for her very entertaining romp through some of the weird things writers do for research and how writers think round corners. Normal? But of course! You can find out more about the very normal Patricia McLinn on her website (where you can sign up for her great newsletter) or by joining her thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter @PatriciaMcLinn. If you see her there too much, though, tell her to stop goofing off and get back to work.
USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn is a past-president of Novelists, Inc, the international organisation of multi-published popular fiction authors. After a journalism career that included 23 years as an editor at the Washington Post, she now writes full-time. Her 40-plus award-winning novels are loved for their warmth, wit, and vivid characterisation. In addition to her “Caught Dead in Wyoming” mystery series, which adds touches of humour and romance to twisty whodunnits, she’s been published in romance and women’s fiction since 1990.
Patricia’s most recent romance releases are Where Love Lives: The Inheritance (Wyoming Wildflowers) and The Forgotten Prince (The Wedding Series).
The next “Caught Dead in Wyoming” series book is Look Live, scheduled for mid-December. Don’t miss it!
Loved this. So delighted to hear you are doing mysteries as well as romance, Patricia. Love your covers. Totally tempting. And yes, I know what you mean about discussions with writerly friends. No one would believe it.
Sounds perfectly normal to me. Fans do that after the book is written, AND in trying to second guess what sequels will bring on.
Also, normal folk do this at night — they call it “having nightmares.”