Hello, my bookish divas and divos. I hope you’re all staying safe at home during these trying times. For those of you that are still out working, first, thank you for your service and second please stay safe!
If you’re anything like me, you probably wonder just how much research an author puts into their books whether it’s historical fiction, suspense, or a police procedural. I’m especially curious about research into the latter category if the author has never been in law enforcement because I have a brother and several relatives in law enforcement and I know that the public never truly knows what goes on behind-the-scenes (sometimes it is for the protection of the public — we don’t really NEED to know everything that’s going on — and sometimes it is for the protection of the innocent or even law enforcement and they often deserve the consideration!). Today, I’m pleased to welcome Elena Taylor, author of the newly released All We Buried, who will be discussing her thoughts on research from the perspective as a crime writer. Thank you, Ms. Taylor, for stopping by today and sharing with us. I look forward to hearing what you have to say and will be putting All We Buried on my TBR list!
A Crime Writer’s Thoughts on Research
Research is one of my favorite aspects of writing a novel. I love to research before and during the writing process.
There are multiple areas to research for any given novel. Some of the ones I enjoy the most are: location and homicide investigation/police procedure.
What makes location so much fun is it can include travel and onsite research along with internet searches and travel books.
My first series, the Eddie Shoes Mysteries, is set in Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham, a small college town near the Canadian border, is about a ninety-minute drive from my house, so it was easy to drive up and visit.
I’ve gone in search of the best places to get a margarita and where to hide a dead body. I also sent my private eye on vacation for book three because I couldn’t justify too many murders in a town that rarely sees more than one murder a year, and got to do similar research in the charming, tourist town of Leavenworth, Washington.
With All We Buried, I got to pick a new location for the novel. Hoping it’s the start of a series, I decided to set it in a fictional town that I can continue to discover and develop in future books. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do onsite research.
Collier, Washington, is based on real places: the town of Roslyn, Washington, and a stretch of “highway” called “Old Blewett Pass Road.”
Roslyn is about an hour’s drive from my house, up and over Snoqualmie Pass, taking me from the wetter, western side of the Cascade Mountain Range to the drier eastern side.
Roslyn, made famous by the TV show, Northern Exposure, is a quaint town built on mining, just like Collier. The details I’ve included in my novel are things like the architecture and an incredible, historic cemetery, along with aspects of locations around town.
One of the primary differences with my fictional town, however, is Roslyn sits just off Highway 90, the main east/west corridor across the state. To get to Collier, you have to drive north from I-90 and head up into the mountains.
The choice to put Collier far away from the main interstate and any other towns was designed to add tension and danger for my characters. But I never imagined while I was writing the novel that the road to Collier actually exists.
And doing research, I found it.
Old Blewitt Road twists its way up into the Cascade Mountains. It’s basically a single lane. With epic drop-offs into picturesque valleys full of ponderosa pines and no sounds save the singing of birds and the sighing of wind.
This is why I love to go onsite for research into location. Sometimes the real thing and the fiction I’ve created are a lot closer than I could have hoped. Both adding to the detail I can include in my books and inspirations for the next one.
Homicide Investigation/Police Procedures
I’m fascinated by homicide investigations. The science behind fingerprinting and autopsies and DNA testing are far more complicated than Hollywood would have us believe.
I watch Forensic Files and read books on crime scene investigation for fun.
But even more important to me, are the human beings behind the science and protocol of police investigations.
While I run a lot of technical stuff past my experts, I’m also curious about the human side of things. Like, what makes police detectives tick?
One of my favorite aspects about meetings with my police expert is after we’ve talked through the details I’ve written about police procedures, I usually ask him questions like “do you ever get used to seeing an autopsy?”
These little personal details can help round out my characters, making them feel like genuine people, not just cardboard cutouts.
My expert’s personal reactions often surprise me, as he thinks about things that I would never consider, with details I could never imagine.
My notebook comes home full of scribbles about crime scene investigation and interviewing techniques when talking to a suspect, but my double underlines are often on the information about his emotional reactions to things.
The perfect blending of accuracy in procedures balanced out with human responses is part of what I think makes my stories feel “real”, even if I sometimes get the details wrong.
The hardest part about research can be knowing what questions to ask. We don’t know what we don’t know until someone points out what we didn’t know.
But that usually just makes me strive harder in the next book.
It’s what got me to a basics of pistol shooting class and reading the textbook for individuals on the police force who want to become detectives.
Who knows what I’ll get into for the next manuscript?
I just promise I’ll keep my research on the right side of the law.
Want to know the answer from my police expert about getting used to autopsies? You’ll just have to read my next novel and see if you can determine fact from fiction. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both.
All We Buried: A Sheriff Bet Rivers Mystery
by Elena Taylor
All We Buried: A Sheriff Bet Rivers Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (April 7, 2020)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Digital ASIN: B07RQH353V
For fans of Julia Keller and Sheena Kamal, All We Buried disturbs the long-sleeping secrets of a small Washington State mountain town.
Interim sheriff Elizabeth “Bet” Rivers has always had one repeat nightmare: a shadowy figure throwing a suspicious object into her hometown lake in Collier, Washington. For the longest time, she chalked it up to an overactive imagination as a kid. Then the report arrives. In the woods of the Cascade mountain range, right in her jurisdiction, a body floats to the surface of Lake Collier. When the body is extricated and revealed, no one can identify Jane Doe. But someone must know the woman, so why aren’t they coming forward?
Bet has been sitting as the interim sheriff of this tiny town in the ill-fitting shoes of her late father and predecessor. With the nightmare on her heels, Bet decided to build a life for herself in Los Angeles, but now it’s time to confront the tragic history of Collier. The more she learns, the more Bet realizes she doesn’t know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.
Amazon: Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million IndieBound
|CREDIT MARK PERLSTEIN
|Elena Taylor spent several years working in theater as a playwright, director, designer, and educator before turning her storytelling skills to fiction. Her first series, the Eddie Shoes Mysteries, written under the name Elena Hartwell, introduced a quirky mother/daughter crime-fighting duo. With All We Buried, Elena returns to her dramatic roots and brings readers a much more serious and atmospheric novel. Located in her beloved Washington State, Elena uses her connection to the environment to produce a forbidding story of small-town secrets and things that won’t stay buried. Elena is also a senior editor with Allegory Editing, a developmental editing house, where she works one-on-one with writers to shape and polish manuscripts, short stories, and plays. If you’d like to work with Elena, visit www.allegoryediting.com.When she’s not writing or coaching writing, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their cats, Coal Train and Cocoa. Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, an M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have you signed up to be a Tour Host?