Most writers do some type of research to make sure their books are realistic. None of us want people to roll their eyes when reading our books! So in the name of accuracy, most authors must do at least some level of research. I’ve heard some pretty strange things that other writers have done in the name of research, but I’m only going to include ones that I was actually a part of. That’s not to say I won’t do even weirder research in the future than those listed below, but I guess that will be blog fodder for another time.
So heeeeeeeere we go…..
1. For a book I’ve written that isn’t published yet (a paranormal romantic suspense) I had to research what type/size of nuclear weapons would fit into several well known landmarks around the world. And that included researching the dimensions of said landmarks. Then I also did research on who would have to attack whom to ignite a virtual world war 3. I’m sure I’m on some interesting watch lists from that one. But in order to have high enough stakes to sustain a three book series and allow my characters to be the good guys and creatively save the day, I had to have a big black moment that was large and scary enough that it COULD’VE resulted in BIG world conflicts if my characters had failed to save the day. I’m glad I have in my network some ex military people who could give me most of that information so I didn’t have to go entirely off the information on the Internet, which as most of us know is most of the time not only flawed but outright crap.
2. For my Sisters of Darkness series written as Cassie Ryan, an erotic paranormal romance about 4 Succubus in Hell’s version of the Witness Relocation Program, I spent a few hours interviewing an actual working prostitute. She works at one of the legal brothels in Nevada, and I bought her several Starbucks mochas in payment for her time, as well as mailed her a copy of each of the books in my series when they came out, as well as my entire Seduction Series. Now you might ask how I met her, but it’s sort of anticlimactic… This was back when I was working at Starbucks and I was working the drive thru window one morning. That entire week I had been looking for a good name for a brothel I was creating for use in The Demon & The Succubus, and she heard me mentioning it to another customer while she was waiting at the window for her drink. After all, what would be a good job for a succubus who has lived for centuries and needed sexual energy to survive in the modern day world? A very high end prostitute at a legal brothel would be perfect, right? We got some very strange looks sitting in the squishy chairs at Starbucks because of some of our discussions – especially since they were pretty graphic and descriptive, and we both ended up laughing until we cried. I still have the notes from that conversation somewhere around here!
3. For my book Vortex Blues I called the Sedona, Arizona police department and asked for some pretty detailed information about the layout of their jail, holding areas etc. I spoke to a very nice lady and she’s in the acknowledgements of that book. I was pretty sure I was going to have the police at my door the morning after that call, but so far nothing…knock on wood…
4. One of my critique partners had written a story that had one of those fake vaginas you find in the sex shops in it. (If she’s amenable she can post the name of the book and a link to it in the comments – it’s a GREAT book!) Anyway, she had written this vagina in there and the details weren’t quite right. So I asked her if she’d ever actually seen and touched one of them. And actually none of the ladies in our critique group HAD except for me. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go! So we all decided it was time to take a trip across the freeway to our local Sex supply Superstore and check this out! So we trekked over and I think I was the only one who had ever been in there before because all of their eyes were the size of dinner plates the entire time! And I’m sure we all made quite a sight poking and prodding all the merchandise and talking about details and giggling like little girls! But damn, it was a fun field trip for the Butterscotch Martini Girls!
5. One of my friends was writing a story that involved the seamier side of the world of strippers – that of those women being pressed into the underground sex trade. So what did we do? Well, while we were at a writer’s conference in New Orleans we visited a strip club in order to interview some of the dancers. One lady was particularly open to talking to us, so each of us in turn paid for and received a lap dance and chatted, finding out everything we could about what she did, any interesting stories and behind the scenes stuff that most people wouldn’t know who weren’t part of that profession. We all tipped her well and once we were done there were several men lined up waiting for their turn at a dance – I guess watching her give lap dances to four women appealed to the male patrons… LOL I’ve used some of the research from that trip in several of my books, even though I don’t have any actual strippers in any of my books. Just proof that everything a writer sees, hears and experiences can become book fodder.
6. While writing Into A Dangerous Mind, my very first book, I called the Arizona FBI office and asked if there was a profiler who would be willing to talk to me for a book I was writing. A few days later a profiler called me back and she was nice enough to talk to me for nearly an hour. We talked about FBI practices that related to scenes in my books, “what if” scenarios, their standard firearms, known issues with them and any fun or interesting stories that she was able to share with me. She was a font of information but asked that I not use her name or even list her in the acknowledgements of my book. But since I wrote that book back in 2003 I think an obscure reference is probably fine. As my first real attempt at writing research, she made me brave enough to move forward with others!
7. For a book that I haven’t written yet I was trying to find the best and worst pickup strategies. So….yes, you guessed it! I tried them out. I was actually on a business trip and a coworker and I were talking about my books and I mentioned that I was trying to do some research on these, so she suggested we start right then! She even offered to pay for the drinks if I took the bull by the horns and tried some out! So we decided on four strategies and dove right in. Or at least I did. Before I use them I think I’ll need to field test them again here in Phoenix to see if they work the same here as they did in Orlando. For some reason I just think the Orlando guys weren’t quite a good overall gauge but who knows until I have more data! The first one was the old standby of asking the waitress to send a drink over to an attractive guy. Now I HAD done this back while I was in college and got a smile, a wink and the guy came over to talk to me. It didn’t work out, but did result in us exchanging phone numbers and going out on one date. Well, in Orlando, it apparently results in a note back with his phone number saying if I’m into choking and scat play to give him a call. If you don’t know what scat play or even “choking” in a sexual connotation is, then you won’t know why I ripped up the napkin, making sure he saw me, and refused to make eye contact with him for the rest of the time we were at the bar.
The second strategy was something my coworker and I threw out there as something we KNEW wouldn’t work, but that she wanted to see me do so she could laugh, so what the hell, she was buying the drinks, so I did it. On my way back from the bathroom I walked by a man who was attractive and probably in his early sixties who was very obviously sitting with his wife. They were even very affectionate with each other including the dreamy smiles, and it was a very sweet scene. Anyway, looking back I can’t believe I did this, but yup – I actually did. As I walked by I made eye contact with him, smiled and dropped my hotel room keycard on the table in front of him before walking back to my table. A few minutes later both he and his wife were at our table asking if I wanted to join THEM at THEIR hotel room for the evening. They even offered to include my coworker if she’d like to come with us. After stuttering for a minute under their very amused smiles I came clean and told them what we were doing and why, and they said that they often approached attractive women or men dining alone to see if they would like to join them for the evening. They’d apparently been doing it for years. I swear I’m going to use something like that in a Cassie Ryan story one day just because it was such a fun and interesting idea. And they looked so innocent! But as a writer I should know better than most that looks are definitely deceiving!
The third man I just made eye contact with and smiled. He nodded back, smiled, sat in a booth and sent us both refills of what we were drinking through the waitress with a message that he was flattered but engaged. Gotta totally respect a hot AND faithful man!
The fourth man I just walked up to his table and asked if he’d like some company. He was very sweet about it and said he usually didn’t date younger women (he was definitely NOT older than me…lol) but that he might make an exception if I could convince him that I wouldn’t be a boring date. In the end after chatting with him for about ten minutes he ended up buying appetizers and more drinks for my coworker and I. He didn’t make any real moves on us but was quite amused when he found out we were using him for research! In fact he told us we were the most interesting “dates” he’d had in quite a while and that he was going to have a great time telling all his friends that two women “used” him for research and letting them draw their own conclusions!! Snerk!
So those are, to date, the strangest things I’ve done in the name of writing research. But now that I’ve written them out I think I need to get with my fellow Butterscotch Martini Girls and get out there and do some more so all of us have some great new book fodder! Anyone else have some fun ones to add? I’d love to see them in the comments!!