Friday, April 25, 2014

Research for All!

Dana Corbit here! Lately, I've been busy doing some research for a couple of projects that are percolating. Yes, I write contemporary romances, and, yes, I do research. Sometimes a lot of it. I've met a few authors who say they write contemporary fiction instead of historicals because they don't like doing research, but I believe research is every bit as important for contemporaries. Particularly since our readers just happen to live in the present and might notice if our books are filled with glaring errors. Over the years, I have researched such topics as adoption laws, hand surgery and soap opera stars as well as home construction, neonatal nurses and wedding cake designs. Oh, did I mention the Branch Davidians and the Jonestown Massacre? Although not all of my research has ended up in published books, quite a bit of it has.

But of all of the subjects I have researched for books, my favorites have been law enforcement agencies and officers. I love writing cop heroes and heroines. I'll admit it. There's something really heroic about a man or woman who's willing to risk his or her life in the service of others. I used one of those heroes in my most recent book, FINALLY A MOTHER, an April release from Love Inspired, which received a 4.5 star rating from Romantic Times. This story is about a social worker at a home for teen moms who must face her past mistakes when the son she placed for a adoption shows up on her doorstep in the custody of a handsome but judgmental police officer.  

Because I have other stories with police characters that I am dying to tell, I jumped at the chance to enroll in the Lakes Area (Michigan) Citizens Police Academy, an eleven-week course covering various areas of law enforcement.

I have loved having the opportunity to do ride-alongs with three different officers from two different police departments. As I learned during my days as a newspaper reporter, there's nothing like interviewing individuals in their real environments as they do their jobs and live their lives. I asked so many questions that the officers surely wanted to toss me out of their patrol cars, so I appreciated their patience.


The classes have been fascinating, from the presentation by Sgt. Dan Ketvirtis, of the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad and his robot, Lucky (both pictured at right) to a canine unit and the medical examiner's office. I took so many notes that one of the officers asked me if I was writing a paper. Er...something like that.  

 And some of that research went beyond the classroom or even a tour. It was a blast firing both a Glock and a Sig Sauer for the first time at the police department gun range. I wouldn't say I'm an Annie Oakley - my instructors wouldn't say that either - but I can use that experience and the descriptions of those sounds and sights and smells as I write my stories.  

And it never hurt that I had the change to take photos of several real-life heroes for my research files. I appreciate the way these officers indulged my photo requests. Here Officer Jon Jacobs, of the Milford Police Department, shows off his crime scene investigation equipment.

All of the research in the world won't help if I don't have a good story to tell, but I believe that good research allows me to bring a taste of reality and a higher level of accuracy to my fictional world. And just maybe this will help me to write better books for my readers. That, after all, is the goal.



Loralee said...

Great interview, Dana. Enjoyed learning about your research and the courses you took through your local police departments. Congrats on the 4.5 RT review of the book! Loved it!

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm glad you had such an enlightening and enjoyable research opportunity, Dana. I'm sure it will help you add even more realism and those fun sensory details to your stories.

Leann Harris said...

Great pictures. Local law enforcement is always willing to help writers, answering questions.

Dana Corbit said...

Thanks, Loralee. I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

Dana Corbit said...

Thanks Keli and Leann. I had a lot of fun learning more about the local police departments. The stories are sure flowing now. said...

I'm a voracious reader and love to read books that are well researched. There's nothing more disappointing than reading a book that contains glaring errors in facts. It detracts from the enjoyment of the book and makes it nearly impossible for me to finish reading such a book. Good for you in going the extra mile in doing your research!