Part three of my Edge of Darkness week begins now…
I asked Vanessa Skye to write a guest post about her research style and how she perseveres through the hard slog that is being a writer. Here’s what she had to say.
Discuss the aspects of your research style, and how you push yourself to keep writing?
Sometime I wonder why I picked crime fiction to write, there could not be a genre more outside my field of expertise, or one more research-heavy. But as all authors will tell you, the story wanted to come out as is, so I just had to go with it!
While the first book in the Edge of Darkness series, The Enemy Inside, and the subsequent second book in the series, Broken, are both crime fiction, they both required different research.
The Enemy Inside was very much forensics-driven, as many of the clues the reader is given happen either at the crime scene, or around the autopsy table. My background is in journalism and public relations, and while I’ve always loved a good cop/crime show, my experience in this area was zero! (You might be interested to know that much of the stuff on shows like CSI is amazingly accurate, however, they do take some artistic license for some of it. I mean, if they had to wait around weeks for DNA to come in, it wouldn’t make for much of an exciting show, would it?).
My process of writing is that my first draft is a bare storyline only. Only later do I go back and fill in the descriptions and details. So after I wrote the first draft of The Enemy Inside, I thought I was basically done. Little did I know that the real work was about to begin!
I found that every aspect of the storyline had to be researched and checked meticulously, from the way the autopsies are done, to the way evidence is collected at a crime scene and chain of custody is preserved. And while Google may well be a great tool for some things, I really couldn’t rely on it for those kinds of details. So Amazon became my friend. I ordered textbook after textbook and read and re-read them continuously. I used to drag one of them ‘Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation’, which is the size of two large house bricks, around with me to cafes all over Sydney as I was finessing the details in The Enemy Inside. The baristas would see me coming lugging my back-breaking books and start laughing heartily as they made my caffeine infusions, and they often asked what an introverted, mother-of-two was doing writing about such nasty things as bondage, sex, and violence!
But the result is that it is all very much true-to-life; I have taken very little artistic license in it beyond the fictional story itself. Of course, the research ended up taking twice as long as the actual writing. It’s just as well I didn’t know this when I started to write The Enemy Inside after having the inspiring dreams, as I probably would have taken a sleeping pill and told my brain to shut the hell up.
Because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment (or just an idiot) Broken is different again. Instead of forensics, it takes a criminal justice system focus as it is more of a psychological thriller. So I read many textbooks about the American criminal justice system (I am Australian, so I couldn’t even draw on the knowledge I have of my local justice system, as the two are quite different—yet more evidence to be placed on the ’Vanessa is an idiot’ pile).
In both instances, the rough storylines I had outlined in the first drafts had to be changed to fit in with the reality of the system in which I am writing. But in all cases, this lead both books to exciting, interesting and dangerous places and the books are far better for it.
As for motivating myself to write, I treat it like I would any other job. I’m on maternity leave at the moment from my journalist position, so I make sure that I set aside time to write while the baby is sleeping. I always do this, even if I don’t feel inspired, because creativity flows from the doing, not from the thinking about doing! If I waiting around to feel ‘inspired’ I wouldn’t have written four books.
The Enemy Inside and Broken are both available from Amazon, Kobo, Book Depository, Booktopia and on the TWCS website. Check out Vanessa’s blog at www.vanessa-skye.com
Watch this space for my interview with Vanessa and further details about the giveaway Vanessa and The Writers Coffee Shop are running to celebrate the release of ‘Broken’.