05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Thursday, February 2, 2017


I can't believe we’re already one month into the New Year. Time has whizzed by since we last spoke. The holidays are over, the kids are back at school, and with a sigh of relief, we can fall into a semblance of normality once again.

But, what’s ‘normal’ for a writer?

Sure, we sit at our keyboard, day after day, and type. We make up stories and characters and situations, both fresh and exciting, from the safety of our writing space. Once in a while, there might be that one scene we need to choreograph, just to make sure it makes sense. But, what if we took it one step further? What if we stepped out from behind our keyboard and enacted that scene, in the real world?
Where am I leading you with this? To my soon-to-be-released novel, Murder Most Unusual.
This is a story in which the line between fact and fiction is blurred and, as a consequence, all havoc breaks loose.
Stacey Holland is a romantic suspense author who believes in creating the perfect scene, especially when it comes to murder. To do this, she enlists the help of a mannequin named Renaldo, an assortment of synthetic weapons and her imagination. In my opening scene, we see Stacey in a large cow paddock after midnight, wrestling with Renaldo in the mud.

She may be grimy and wet and cold, but she’s dead-set-determined. Her readers deserve nothing less than perfection. And perfection isn’t gained by sitting at home, all cozy and warm, with a batch of her favorite choc chip cookies and a glass of warm milk.
You have to get out there, get dirty, and get things happening.
So, there she is, wrestling with Renaldo, creating the perfect murder. A little quirky, but hey, quirky’s no crime. Right? Not unless there’s a psychopath watching. A psychopath who likes her style of murder so much, he decides to copy it.

She writes.
He watches. He waits. He kills….

As Stacey works on her book, bodies are littered in her wake. But instead of fiberglass, they are made of real flesh, skin and bones.
Then homicide detective Chase Durant connects the dots between Stacey’s books and the killer’s gruesome murders, and suddenly Stacey’s thrown into a whole lot of trouble she’d much rather avoid. That includes dealing with her sex-starved hormones and a detective who’s way too delicious for his own good. And hers.
She tries her darnedest to shut Chase out, to retreat back into her writing world, away from men who manipulate and make fun of what she does and who she aspires to be. It worked when shutting out her ex-husband. It shouldn’t be any less effective when shutting out a pesky detective.
Plus, a killer mimicking her murders doesn’t change the fact that she’s on a deadline with her next book. And publishers wait for no man, author or murderer. She has no time or inclination to play Sherlock with a detective. He catches the killers, she just writes them.
Great but for one problem – the killer wants her attention, and he’ll do anything to get it.
I love the premise of this story. From one romantic suspense author looking into the mind – albeit fictional – of another, I’ve often wondered how far authors would be willing to go for their craft. How far they’d be prepared to push the boundaries to create that perfect character, that perfect scene. And if it meant delving into the mind of a psychopath, would they do it?
Could they do it?
I know there are authors who’ve immersed themselves in their character’s job or life situation, extremes spanning from being homeless to being a corporate highflyer. Some have pushed the boundaries of safety, choking themselves, staging drownings and other such events, just to discover how best to describe them. These are lines that are way too murky for me to cross.
I’ve held snakes, choreographed fight and murder scenes (in the comfort of my own home), even asked hubby to lock me in the trunk of the car so I could see how it felt. But that’s where I draw the line.

Stacey’s line is a little further left-field, but it’s still there. Still very clear. Still stopping her from taking that final step from author to assassin.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t go for the psychopath who’s watching her.
But that’s another story, for another day.
So, how far would you go? For a story, for a job? How far would you go to move your product from good to great status?
Do you think an author should pull out all stops for a good story, or is there a line you think they shouldn't cross?
I'd love to hear your thoughts, or your personal experience on going that extra mile for a job you love - it doesn't have to be writing.

Murder Most Unusual is a seductive suspense set in Melbourne, Australia.
Romance novelist Stacey Holland lives in a fictitious world where the mortality of her characters is governed by a tap on her keyboard.
Homicide detective Chase Durant’s cases are real and gritty and one wrong move could be his last.
When their two worlds collide, and fiction melds with fact, can they fight the attraction raging between them, all-the-while fighting the killer determined to destroy them both?

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Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to seeing you all again the first Thursday of next month 😊


Sarah Raplee said...

What a fun, thought-provoking first post for us at RTG, Michelle! I love Reynaldo, by the way.

There are certainly things I wouldn't do to research my stories, like break the law. There are plenty of things I would do depending on my reasons for writing a particular story or character.
Ghost hunt? Sure! Worship Satan? No!
Go spelunking? No hesitation. Interview a serial killer? No thanks!
Visit a restaurant owned by the Bosnian mob? Sure! Join the Bosnian mob? Are you nuts?
I'm not going to cut off a leg to understand how an amputee feels. I'll talk to some amputees about what their lives are like and the challenges they face.

But sometimes I find myself doing or saying things I never imagined I would. Like the time a writer I met at a conference told me her housemate is a retired CIA agent who was disabled in a bomb blast. My response? "He didn't by chance lose a leg, did he?"

Michelle Somers said...

Hi Sarah
Thanks so much for sharing how far you'd go for a good story :)
I can totally relate! As authors, there has to be a line we don't cross - and I'd say the law should factor into that.
And as for inappropriate questions... There are so many times I find myself biting my tongue, having to choose between research and curiosity vs. propriety.
Such a tough choice!
Thanks for stopping by.

Marcia King-Gamble said...

Hi Stacey,

Welcome! I definitely am not willing to go as far as you. Snakes? Shudder! Getting locked in the trunk of a car? Never. I'm just not that trusting. Loved the pics though. But I would definitely reach out to a total stranger for information I needed, and I am pushy enough to find an ingenious way to meet people. Most definitely I'd ride in the back of a police car or go along with law enforcement on a stake out. I'd jump out of a plane though.

Marcia King-Gamble said...

OOps, that would be Michelle. Stacey is your alter-ego!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Interesting post, Michelle. I write historical romance set in Alaska, so my list includes: tried on corsets, travelled to a gold miner's cabin and claim, hiked Denali National Park, and taken the state ferry down the Aleutians to Dutch Harbor. But that's pretty tame compared to what mystery and suspense writers have to do. And I'm afraid of snakes, so I probably have more boundaries than you do. :-)

Lauren James said...

I love this post, Michelle. Stacey sounds like an incredibly zany character. I can't wait to 'meet' her when you book releases.

Those photos of you in the car boot/trunk and with the snake are GOLD!

I haven't really had to do any crazy 'in-person' research for my story yet, which has a dog-fighting element. I'm definitely not going to see one in person, but I do watch the tv show Animal Cops which often shows dogs rescued from those situations. That'll have to do for now!

Diana McCollum said...

I really enjoyed your post! You are very brave when it comes to holding a snake or climbing into the trunk/boot of a car! Your story sounds intriguing. Most of my research has been done online. I did go to one coffee shop to get the decor down for my story. I'd jump at the chance to go to different locals and see in person what I'm writing about. Maybe some day. . .

Barbara Strickland said...

Well, talk about making a writer's life sound pretty fascinating and actually believing it.
A fun post and certainly appealing to the reader in me as much as the writer.

Michelle Somers said...

Lol Marcia.
Isn't it funny how we each have our own 'no go' zones. I'm more than happy to get up close & personal with a snake, but no way will you get me jumping out of a plane!!!
I have a healthy respect - and fear - of heights.
Have you done it? I'm most impressed 😊
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...

Lol! Doncha hate it that you can't edit Blogger comments?
No problem 😊

Michelle Somers said...

Wow, Lynn, that's an impressive list.
I'm curious about the corset. Could you breathe? I know women used to faint because their corsets were way too tight to allow oxygen flow.
Thanks so much for sharing your research stories.
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...

Hi Lauren
Your book sounds intriguing. The research question is a tough one. And sometimes we can get great info from avenues other than personal experience. Like TV 😝 I love watching psychological thriller stuff with serial killers brcause it's research for my bad guys. But I have no inclunation to cross paths with a serial killer. That's my line in the sand 😊
Thanks for stopping by!
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...

Hi Diana
Thanks! I did love writing this story. It was so hard to let go!
I love research, but sometimes it's just not possible.
I did visit a prison once, but they wouldn't allow me past reception! And I'd love to shadow a homicide detective. Haven't had the opportunity yet.
If you had the chance, what locals would you choose? Overseas? Or more local?
Thanks for sharing your ideas on research.
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...

Hi Barbara
Thank you!
I wish a writer's life was that interesting! But it does have it's moments.
I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.
Thanks for stopping by!
Michelle xx

Linda Lovely said...

Enjoyed the post, Michelle. I do believe in real-world research, but I don't quite go as far as you in putting myself in situations that cause me discomfort. My heroines seem to share my phobias--especially fear of heights--so I let them be brave for me. Good luck with your book. Sounds terrific.

Judith Ashley said...

Michelle, fun post! No, I would not hold a snake nor would I climb in the trunk of a car even with it remaining open. I also wouldn't jump out of a plane! I've been in a prison and worked in a jail. There is something about knowing you have the keys that make the slamming/closing of the steel doors less daunting. Same is true for psychiatric hospitals.

I'm blessed with a rich and varied background in social services, education and law enforcement. And the last thing I'd do is research serial killers. One woman, who had hacked her husband up and put him in various sized plastic bags and then in the garbage, stood in front of me (I was working in the jail at the time and she was there awaiting a court hearing). She looked me up and down, said a number and turned and walked away. The other woman on duty with me explained she'd assessed how many baggies it would take to dispose of me!!!

Michelle Somers said...

Thanks Linda.
I must admit I do enjoy my creature comforts, so not sure how far out of my comfort zone I'd go for a good story. The kids thought I was both hilarious and crazy for getting into the trunk of the car. And it did help me to write that scene.
You hit the nail on the head in your comment, though.
Isn't it great, getting our characters to do things we can't or wouldn't do? That's why I love writing kick-ass courageous heroines. Because I wish I had half their mettle :)
Thanks heaps for stopping by!
Michelle xxx

Michelle Somers said...

Wow, your experience and knowledge is fabulous, Judith!
Shivers just crawled up my spine with your story of the inmate and her assessment.
Shame you don't live in Melbourne! I'd love to sit down and have a chat about your experiences. They sound fascinating.
Must be great having those insights when writing.
Thank you so much for sharing your stories.
Michelle xx

Judith Ashley said...

Depending on timing, we may be able to have that chat, Michelle. I'm gearing up to get a camera for my computer and sign up for Google or Zooom or another of the chat programs. First is to be able to do distance training for William Glasser International and then to do on-line trainings. But I do realize I can see my great granddaughter when I talk to her and also chat with other authors around the world! I'm more excited about moving in this direction than before I thought of these added bonuses.

In the meantime, do feel free to ask questions. I will admit when I realized what the woman was in prison for, it chilled me to the bone. Now, what's also fascinating is her life - when I read her file I thought her husband got off pretty easy.

Michelle Somers said...

Ooh, I'd love that!
As far as face-to-face chats, have you looked at skype? It's free and I use it a lot for chatting to my brother in the UK so he can chat to my boys.
Good luck with chatting to your granddaughter - it's a wonderful thing to be able to do!
I will definitely love to ask questions, as I have an idea for a story brewing in my mind and she sounds like the perfect psychological profile for my killer.
Thanks so much for the offer!
Michelle xx

Margaret M said...

Great post, Michelle and the lengths you go to, are ...scary.

Good luck and thanks for the fun post.