Researching my books is perhaps one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of writing. I’m an information hound, I admit it. I think that even if you don’t include all the specific facts, small details create a layered palette to the overall tone of the novel. I liken it to all those amazing details the set and prop experts put together on a film. You might not focus in on that painting in the background or that statue sitting in the corner, but the details end up creating an overall atmosphere and mood that is difficult to put into words but, nevertheless, crucial.
Explosive, my Berkley erotic romantic suspense which comes out on December 7, involved a lot of research on my part. At the forefront of Explosive is an intense, emotional, and erotic love affair, but in the background, a criminal syndicate and the threat of violence looms, dark and encroaching.
Living in Chicago, I feel as if I breathe the air of corruption, power, and under-the-table dealings (a circumstance I’m disgusted with as a citizen, but as a writer, I can make use of it.) This backdrop is crucial not only for the plot of Explosive, but for the hero’s complex and tormented character development.
To create this story, I researched modern day mob news stories, like the so-called “Family Secrets” trial into mob corruption and the fascinating history of the Chicago Outfit. I was interested to see that a current news story involving coin-operated gambling machines, the mob…and explosions to allegedly cover evidence made the news, the details having some weird parallels to Explosive, which was already written at the time.
I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful lady at a reader event whose husband works in Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the elite unit of the Navy responsible for either disposing of or safely disarming bombs or other types of ordnance, including chemical, biological, and nuclear. With her permission, I decided to make my hero, Thomas, a retired ORD officer. It was the perfect past occupation for a man who was so volatile internally and whose world was exploding around him. The reader even recruited her husband to my cause, and he was kind enough to read excerpts and provide realistic feedback. Considering he’s currently in service in Afghanistan, I consider myself to be very, very lucky to get this expert advice.
In regard to my hero’s emotional and psychological state, I consider myself to be an expert. I hold a doctorate in the behavioral sciences and have worked on traumatic brain injury units, ICUs, and emergency rooms. I’ve always wanted to do a story involving memory loss—a realistic story, that is. However, even though I consider myself knowledgeable on this topic, I still went back and studied the details of localized amnesias and PTSD. In the end, I’m satisfied with Thomas’s clinical presentation. I think it’s a realistic portrayal, if a rare one.
I hope that when Explosive releases on December 7 you’ll enjoy the hot, explosive romance first and foremost, but know that some considerable research and thought went into those background details.