Talk to the Sheriff, Don’t Get Arrested (Post by Anna)
Talk to the Sheriff, Don’t Get Arrested
November 13, 2015
Even romance writers have to do research. Sometimes we do a little, sometimes a lot, all depending on the story. When I wrote my award-winning upcoming book, Fired Up, I did moderate research into the lives of firefighters as well as the Chicago area. Since most of the story didn’t involve the hero’s firefighter job, I didn’t go overboard with the research (yes, it’s possible to do too much!). Fired Up is a contemporary romance, a subgenre that can require more care in getting things just right because readers know what’s believable in the real, modern world.
With my other award-winning upcoming book, The Mortal Falls, I wrestled with how much research to do. This book is a paranormal romance that takes place in a fictional county in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula (my home turf) and involves characters with supernatural abilities who live in a world of magic existing parallel to ours. I already know a great deal about ancient mythology, which plays into many of my stories. But how much did I need to know about the real, human world for The Mortal Falls?
For the most part, I made things up. The rock shop that plays a key role in the story is inspired by a real place, but I’ve changed things up to make it quirkier and more fitting for a paranormal tale. A vital secondary character in the story, Travis Blackwell, serves as one corner of a sort-of love triangle between the heroine, Lindsey, and her hero, Nevan (a magical being). After I finished the first draft of the book, I wondered whether I should learn a bit more about sheriffs and what they do. Rural sheriffs are a different breed from those in larger small towns or suburban areas. Since I based my fictional Mandan County on a real, very rural county, my writer’s conscience urge me to find out more.
I contacted the sheriff of a nearby county, one with a year-round residency of just over two thousand people. I was worried a law enforcement official might think paranormal romance was silly and not want to talk to me, but the sheriff I met with didn’t care at all. Turns out his wife loves romances! He was very open with me, sharing a good chunk of his day with me to talk about the differences in the duties and capabilities of a sheriff’s office in such a tiny county, population wise. I learned most of what I’d written already was spot on, which a writer always loves to hear, but I also gained some new information that presented new possibilities for my story. If hadn’t talked to the sheriff, I would never have discovered these new avenues.
Research can prove you wrong, prove you right, or take you into new territory. That’s why writers of fiction do research. We want our stories, even the most outlandish supernatural tales, to have a grounding in reality. And of course, it’s always great to talk to the sheriff without getting arrested!