They say write about what you know, and I’m all for that. Anything to save time on research. Besides, if you know your subject well then you’re unlikely to make mistakes that turn readers off. That’s why I made Charlie Hunter, my retired detective, live aboard his boat. I know a lot about boats. Not content with that, I plonked his boat in Brighton marina in southern England, where we used to keep our old tub. That was some years ago so I popped back when in England, just to make sure it hadn’t changed too much. I even checked, (er, make that re-checked), the Wetherspoon’s pub, all in the name of research, naturally. Cheers!
Charlie usually goes to Cowes in his boat at some point during each book in the series, simply because it’s close to Brighton and because it’s my home town. No research necessary. I even had him and his dog walking through a park next to a school. It was my school, back in the day. I wish I could have found a reason for him to go into the school and run, (sharp intake of breath), yes run, down the corridors. I can still hear an imperious teacher’s voice to this day,
“No running in the corridors, Wendy Wood. Report for detention!”
“Oh no, not again, sir.”
Sorry, some memories kind of haunt you forever, don't you find?
Here’s a picture of Cowes High Street. Quaint, isn’t it, and it’s changed little over the years I’ve known it. No, you’re not supposed to ask how many years that is. Anyway, I’m not telling! Local businesses have had to make way for Indian restaurants, estate agents and gastro pubs, and locals have been priced out of the housing market. That’s progress for you.
Still, there comes a point in every book when I can no longer rely on personal knowledge. Thank goodness for the internet! Even so, how much information is enough? Personally, if someone’s being threatened by a gun, I don’t really care what sort of gun it is, how loud the bang will be, how many bullets it holds, whether it’s silenced, how long the bullet will take to reach its target, (unless those points are important to the particular situation). It’s a gun. Okay, I get that. Now, will the person being threatened find a clever way to escape, or should the unfortunate victim prepare for the next life? That’s all that matters. Don’t burden me with too much detail, my poor brain cell is on overload as it is.
What about you? Do you like to know all the technical nitty-gritty, or are you more concerned with the story moving on? My second book in the Charlie Hunter series, Risky Business, due to be published by Carina next summer, finds Charlie in the middle of a race fixing scam, and up to his neck in a drugs ring. And before you ask, I didn’t get those facts from my personal memory banks. It’s amazing what you can find out through a little diligent googling, though.
Have a great festive season, everyone!