Author Adrienne Giordano talks about her latest research trip.
As writers, we get to do some pretty cool things. Well, we get to do cool things in between all the self-doubt and banging our heads against the wall because our plot isn’t working. Those things aside, we spend hours doing research, learning about fun things and not feeling guilty because it’s all part of the job of being a writer.
A couple of weeks ago, I was able to spend a weekend having just such fun and I can promise there wasn’t a moment of guilt. I, along with my pal Kelsey Browning, attended the Writers’ Police Academy in North Carolina. If you’ve never been to this conference, I strongly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a suspense/thriller writer, it’s an exceptional experience.
For instance, the attendees were able to watch a bomb squad (robot and all!) handle a suspicious backpack. And yes, that backpack did go boom. I also attended workshops on investigating cold cases, analyzing fingerprints, how EMT’s handle emergency calls, the differences between sheriffs and police chiefs, how undercover officers operate and, my personal favorite, breaching a building.
In the building breach session, we were taken in groups of twenty to an empty apartment complex, given plastic handguns and rifles and shown how to enter the building and search it. Before attending this session, I hadn’t realized a building breach is similar to a choreographed dance. Each member of the breaching team has a job. The breacher is the person who opens the door (by any means necessary) so the team can enter the premises. From there, each team member enters, shouting commands and working as a unit while they move through the location.
After the officers demonstrated how each step of the breach is handled, our group of twenty writers was broken up into four teams. Four writers were chosen to be “bad guys” and told to hide in different apartments. Each team had to find the bad guy hiding in their assigned apartment. Kelsey was chosen to be a bad guy and I happily informed our instructor she would be a total nightmare. He laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to be part of the team hunting Kelsey. My team was after Lisa Gardner. Yes, THE Lisa Gardner.
And we killed her. She actually died six times that weekend. Amazing staying power that Lisa Gardner!
As much fun as the building breach was, one particular thing stood out. I hadn’t anticipated it, but I was exhausted after we completed our assignments. Here I was, a writer trying to educate myself by role-playing with fake guns, and the adrenaline surges during each breach wore me out. Each time I stepped into one of the apartments I got a rush of fear I couldn’t control. Intellectually, I knew it was all a game, but emotionally, I was a wreck.
As a writer, I tried to take stock of every visceral reaction, to really go there and let myself feel it. Later, I laughed about it when I mentioned it to one of the officers. I knew this was an exercise, but I was still terrified. He told me he felt fear every time he performed a building breach. After my conversation with him, I realized fear had to be a normal part of the job. Personally, I couldn’t do it. The adrenaline rushes, the anxiety, it was too much for me.
But I learned a lot about my hero (a sergeant with New York’s version of S.W.A.T.) during those exercises. I knew my guy was an adrenaline junkie, but I didn’t know how those emotional onslaughts sucked away energy and how he would constantly have to regroup even if he’d rather go home and take a nap. Or that he’d have to force himself to set aside that fear and focus on his job or he might die. For me, these are the “aha” moments that come with research. Those little moments that let me submerge myself into characterization and why my heroes and heroines behave the way they do.
I also learned that getting out from behind my desk and telephone for research is an excellent way to tap into the visceral reactions my characters might experience. For me, many questions were answered while playing with a plastic gun.
RU Crew, what research methods do you use to tap into your characters?
Amy Alessio returns with another Reader Roundup on Saturday, September 21st. On Monday, September 23rd, RU welcomes K.M. Weiland.
Here’s a peek at Adrienne’s latest, THE CHASE.
Hard-driving attorney Jo Pomeroy is as determined as she is sexy—in other words, a major pain in NYPD Sergeant Gabe Townsend’s butt. Working together on a high-profile task force charged with busting sales of counterfeit goods has been rocky from the start. And Jo’s penchant for trouble is as difficult to ignore as her spectacular legs.
The world of knock-offs isn’t as frivolous as it appears. The purses are fake, but the danger is all too real—and Jo seems hell-bent on putting herself in the middle of it. Her investigations have uncovered valuable leads for Gabe’s team, but they’ve also drawn the wrong kind of attention.
Now, she’s on the radar of a mysterious smuggler not afraid to use violence to evade the law. At the risk of their lives—and their hearts—Gabe and Jo must find him before he finds them.
Bio: USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. For more information on Adrienne’s books, please visit www.AdrienneGiordano.com. Adrienne can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdrienneGiordanoAuthor and Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdriennGiordano. For information on Adrienne’s street team, Dangerous Darlings, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/dangerousdarlings.
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