By Linda Lovely
Okay, no need for the IRS to start an audit. The meager author income reported on my tax return is unfortunately no lie. Nonetheless, researching mysteries and romantic suspense novels has made my life so much richer.
Here is a small sampling of my experiences and encounters with fascinating folks I would never have met if it weren’t for my research and professional affiliations.
Writers’ Police Academy
The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) takes top honors on my list of opportunities to gain experiences and meet people I would never, ever have encountered if I had not attended the WPA. In August, I’ll make my fourth visit to the Academy, where I’m a volunteer staffer, giving back to an organization that is dedicated to helping writers of crime fiction get it right (and have a lot of fun in the process).
At the WPA, I have:
· Experienced the decision-making dilemmas police officers face in deciding when to fire in simulated real-life situations with hostages and armed threats. (I killed no civilians.)
· Visited a burn site looking for signs of arson
· Searched a wooded area for signs of a shallow grave
· Learned self-defense tactics that work for women if they’re grabbed
· Searched jail cells for contraband
· Interviewed suspects and
· Studied nasty bioweapon alternatives
· Seen how dogs and robots would work to foil terrorists
· Watched police divers retrieve underwater evidence
· PLUS sat in classes presented to every type of law enforcement expert imaginable, from Secret Service, FBI and DEA agents to forensic psychologists, fraud and gang experts
· What’s best? Many of the experts I met at the Academy and in my own backyard have been more than willing to help answer specific questions related to my manuscripts.
· Retired Detective Lee Lofland, WPA founder, and Dr. Denene Lofland, who seems to know all there is to know about bio crimes, have become dear friends.
Sisters in Crime
Closer to home, I meet fascinating folks every month at the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Here are a few of our law enforcement-related guests:
· An entertaining woman who heads her family’s bail bond company.
· A psychic, considered empathic, clairaudient, claircognizant and sometimes clairvoyant.
· A policeman who has spent nine years as a school resource officer.
· Judges, public defenders, defense attorneys, DA.s and prosecutors.
· Forensic crime scene and firearms specialists
· A specialist in tracking computer and financial fraud.
· The head of a group fighting domestic abuse and minor sex trafficking
· A parole officer,
Road Trips & Phone Interviews
Writing mysteries and romantic suspense also provides an excuse for road trips and conversations with some of the most interesting people outside of law enforcement. My most recent excursions have been to visit a goat cheese farm and a (legal) moonshine operation. I’ve also interviewed folks in my home town who are old enough to remember what it was like in 1938, when my novel LIES is set.
See what I mean about rich? I’m one Baby Boomer who believes there’s more to life than living an insulated life interacting only with people in your own age, ethnic, and income group.
Writers—what’s the most interesting research you’ve undertaken for a novel?