Write what you want to know.
There is an old adage: Write what you know. I’d like to change that to: Write what you want to know.
I know all about designing computer systems for the banking industry, growing (and eating) tomatoes, driving long distances, and reading mystery novels. All of which hardly makes for fascinating books. So I set myself to learning what I wanted to write about.
I write a traditional village/police procedural style novel in the Constable Molly Smith series. I have no experience in law enforcement whatsoever. None. The books are set in Canada, in the British Columbia Interior. Thus I am at a disadvantage because as consumers of popular culture we Canadians read British books and watch American TV and some aspects of policing are different here in Canada. Veracity is important to me in my books.
Yet I love police novels in the British vein and that’s the sort of book I wanted to write. Before beginning the first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier, I wrote to the police force in the real life town upon which Trafalgar is based asking for help and got a very positive response. Over the years they have helped me enormously. When I moved to where I now live, I contacted the local police detachment (and gave them a copy of In the Shadow of the Glacier). I’ve since been on police ride-alongs, to watch in-service training, to the firearms range, and even had my own private training session in close quarters combat. I had a lot of fun and learned a great deal about what I wanted to know.
My next book for Poisoned Pen Press is a standalone suspense in the Gothic tradition, tentatively titled Walls of Glass. (Fear not dear reader, Molly Smith will be back). I decided to set the book on an organic vegetable farm because that’s something I’m interested in. (Wondering how an organic farm can be a gothic setting? You’ll have to read the book.) Now, my tiny tomato patch is nothing at all like a working, viable farm, so I set out once again to find out what I wanted to know. Which is how to run a thriving, small-scale, family farm. I happen to live in agricultural country, and there happen to be a good number of small scale farms near-by. I contacted the farm owners (off season, these are busy people come summer and fall) and spent some very pleasant afternoons touring the farm and talking about the ins and outs of the modern organic food culture. This fits nicely into one of my primary interests these days which is the locovore movement – eating good food grown close to home and supporting local farms at the same time.
The backstory of Walls of Glass concerns Loyalist settlers, i.e. refugees from the American Revolution who settled in Ontario in 1783. This is another topic I wanted to learn more about since I moved to Loyalist county three years ago and so I’m very much enjoying doing the research.
Being a writer doesn’t pay very well, so it’s nice to have unexpected benefits. Like having the opportunity to learn what you’d like to know more about.
The fifth and newest book in Vicki Delany’s critically-acclaimed acclaimed Constable Molly Smith series, Among the Departed, will be released on May 3rd 2011. Vicki is also the author of the Klondike Gold Rush series (Gold Fever) and standalone novels of psychological suspense (Scare the Light Away, Burden of Memory).
Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she grows vegetables, eats tomatoes, shovels snow, and rarely wears a watch.
Library Journal gave Among the Departed a starred review saying: “Her exceptional ability to create characters, both realistic and sometimes creepy, makes this another terrific addition to her outstanding body of work.”
Visit www.vickidelany.com. She is on Facebook and twitter @vickidelany.