Yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve heard it before, and so have I. But let me just tell you that THIS time, I know exactly WHY we are so lovingly told to write what we know. This time I didn’t, and I found myself feeling like the proverbial fish out of water. In my latest novel, Snow Job, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and outside of my field of expertise.
In my bio, I mention that I have worked as a nurse, a teacher, a martial arts coach, (I hold 3 black belts in 3 different styles, from 1st to 3rd Dan.) I have flown planes, painted for an art gallery, and done a whole slew of other things. Recently, someone reading my bio out loud added, “Yeah, for four minutes each.” So to rectify that…Four years was the shortest stint I did in any one of my adventures. 😉 All that to say, that I have a great variety of experiences and expertise to choose from for my writing, and I should have stayed within those parameters.
In my life, I have had the opportunity to go on “survival training,” acquiring valuable skills and knowledge, and have not only taught these very skills to teens through the Canadian Cadet Movement, but I have used this knowledge in my books as well. So when I hear in the comments that it is impossible for a teen to have such knowledge, I smile to myself and let it slide, wondering about the sheltered lives some people have led.
Writing Snow Job, in which my main character (a NY family or divorce lawyer), appears at ease in her domain, was worthy of a headache or two for me. I spent days, never mind hours, researching tidbits of information. And I am not talking about a whole bunch of court jargon and details to fill an entire chapter…but a few terms peppered throughout the scenes. I did turn to a young woman who had recently passed the bar herself, to answer some of my questions and ease my inner panic. I am very grateful, Ariane, for your patience.
On the flipside, tossing in little bits of military flavor was a breeze. I recently received my service medal, for having completed the number of years required of a member of the Canadian military. When I am not being Mom, Sensei, Coach, or Debbie Brown –Author, I am called Captain Brown…and I am a proud member of the Canadian Forces. This stuff I know very well, and I can easily write about it.
I feel blessed to have been able to acquire the knowledge and skills that lovingly fill my bag of author spices, adding flavor and aroma to my writing. Of course there’s that other bag of colorful characters…he he he…and if our paths cross, you might never even know that you too have been added to it, only to make an appearance in one of my books later on down the line.
There is unavoidable research in novel writing, because I believe we are always going to expand on our inner data base as we write. But when we are mercilessly thrown into the unknown, where so few of our tools can be of service, it becomes a daunting task to create convincing characters and settings.
So once again, I can only advise you to save yourself unnecessary headaches, and write what you know.
All her life, Debbie has spun stories in her mind, watching the characters come to life. After working as a nurse, teacher, martial arts instructor, artist, and CIC officer in the Canadian military, her life reads like a story itself. Since graduating from the Institute of Children’s Literature, she is finally devoting herself to writing these stories down and taking us all on a ride we won’t quickly forget.
When NY divorce lawyer, Sarah Lindquist, stepped out of her office to clear her mind before her next client showed up, the last thing she expected was to come to in the middle of the Colorado Rockies, with two park rangers standing over her.
The ex-military rangers are convinced someone wants her out of the way, but how do they find out who, without putting her life at risk and letting that ‘someone’ know they’ve missed the target?