Author Gail Barrett Shares Tips & Tricks of Researching Your Next Novel, To Celebrate the Launch of the FBI-Thiller Tough Justice
I don’t know much about anything – at least nothing that’s useful in a book. A career as a high school Spanish teacher has taught me a lot about learning languages, but nothing about weapons or crimes. So to write a suspense novel with any sort of credibility I’ve resigned myself to doing research. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Folk remedies don’t always work.
I never expected to get altitude sickness when I took a research trip to Peru. I’d read about it, and even took medication to prevent it since I was joining a medical group visiting villages at 13,000 feet. Regardless, my blood oxygen still plunged to 71%, leaving me so exhausted I could barely stagger across the room. And while folk remedies may sound intriguing, all the coca tea in the world didn’t stop the horrible throbbing in my head. But like any writer I put the misery to use and used it in my book.
2. I’m far more cowardly than my characters.
I like to think of myself as courageous, but I’m really not. That point hit home when I did a police ride-along in Baltimore one time. I weathered a high speed chase, confronted junkies in a flop house, and helped serve several ex-partes in some pretty rough neighborhoods without losing my nerve. But when we stopped a break-in in progress, and the officer I was with confronted the suspects with his weapon drawn, I realized how scared I was, even wearing a bullet-proof vest. I might write about kick-ass characters, but I’m definitely not one of them.
3. I’m hopeless when it comes to guns.
One of these days I’m going to have to break down and take shooting lessons. It might be the only way I’ll ever be able to write about firearms with any sort of credibility. As it is, it doesn’t matter how many times someone walks me through a scene, I forget everything as soon as I’ve written it down. Fortunately, I have a husband and son with military backgrounds I can pester for facts.
4. There are some amazingly nice and helpful people in the world.
And I don’t mean only those related to me, who are obligated to help me out. I’ve met some incredibly generous people over the years: the head of the Enoch Pratt library in Baltimore who gave me a private tour, the Baltimore cop who not only let me ride along with him but still answers my questions whenever I plead for help, the smokejumper in Montana who demonstrated how flares work and let me sit on his plane, a retired DEA agent, an expert in illuminated manuscripts, the owner of a Harley Davidson store – just to mention a few. I’m eternally impressed by how helpful people can be.
5. The world is a scary place.
If you think people are out to get you, they probably are. The problem with doing research for suspense novels is that I’ve come across a lot of information I wish I didn’t know. Thanks to the internet, I’ve learned that what doesn’t make the news is far more terrifying than what does.
6. Writers will do anything for research.
In 2008 I wrote an article for the Romance Writers Report about what writers will do to get authentic details for their books. And I have to tell you, I’m a total slacker compared to most. Other authors I spoke to have spent time with hookers, flown through a gale in a small plane, gone down in a submarine, ridden an elephant, become an EMT, gotten a tattoo, dodged wildfires, gone to strip clubs, and tagged along on a mountain rescue -- all for the sake of their books. One writer tried to sneak across the border. Another tried to smother herself! One thing’s for sure -- writers are an amazingly intrepid bunch!
7. It’s worth it.
I can’t guarantee that I haven’t made mistakes in my books, despite doing research. In fact, I’m sure I have. There are too many things I still don’t know. But I feel good knowing that at least I’ve tried to get it right. And in the process, I’ve had some great experiences, traveling to different countries and expanding my limited horizons – even if I’m still a coward at heart.
Be sure to check out part 1 of Tough Justice, EXPOSED, available to readers for FREE!
For more information about the series, visit ToughJusticeSeries.com.
Get part 1 of TOUGH JUSTICE for FREE:
About the author: Gail Barrett is the award-winning author of over a dozen romantic suspense novels. A former RITA® finalist, Gail has received countless awards, including the Book Buyer’s Best Award, the Holt Medallion, The National Readers’ Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in romantic suspense, and Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart. For more information, visit her website: http://www.gailbarrett.com
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