Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Background Check, Check, Check, Is this ON?

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I love writing fiction. It's an incredible feeling to create these characters and see them through a crisis to the end. A lot of times, however, you have to do some research to "get it right" and make the story believable. Research is usually thought of as tedious and boring, but it is generally essential for a fiction writer. Unless of course you are a secret spy, or your bishop is an FBI agent, then you can write from experience I suppose. Sadly, I have neither of those things to draw on, (but if I did would I tell you? Secret spies are so . . . secretive, you know.)

I do have some experiences to draw on. Most of my books are set overseas and while I have done some traveling to Greece, France, and England, and I'm from Canada, there is always research to be done. It was during my research that I met some amazing people that I'd like to talk about today.

Scot Coulter was a huge asset for me when I was doing the research for Time Will Tell. He is an international pipeline safety specialist and was able to give me all the scoop about Turkey and the pipeline that crosses their country and supplies the world with a lot of oil. He also gave me huge insights about the people, the country and the working conditions that were priceless. I really enjoyed reading his e-mails every day (he was stationed in Iran at the time, then went back to Turkey). That kind of research is a lot of fun and I got to know a lot about an area of the world that not a lot is known about and hopefully that was conveyed in the book.

The book I just submitted is partially set in Iraq and I wanted to make that as real as possible so I asked a billion questions to Corporal Matthew Blair who'd served two tours in Iraq. Just getting to see a small slice of what he's been through as well as all the other men and women in the armed forces made me want to cry for their sacrifices. Yet they don't all see it that way—their patriotism and love of country and fellow man keep them going through it all. I really wanted that to come through in the book. These are ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things. It changed me and I wanted to write about it so others could be changed, too.

Two weeks ago I got to go behind the scenes in a California police department and do some research there. I got to see where the processing room, fingerprinting, and holding cells were, where dispatch is and I even watched a 911 call come in. The detective showing me around was very patient with all my questions as he showed me the training rooms, riot gear, brand new riot vehicles and night vision equipment. The most amazing thing though, after meeting the police captain, was watching a shooting demonstration by a Homeland Security guy. They took me through all the maneuvers and let me hold an M-16 that had been specially modified for the police. Then I watched them shoot. It was so fun and I can chalk it up to research because I totally plan to use it in the book. Big shout out to Ned, Tim and John of the Anaheim Police Department. You guys rock!

That's one of the perks of being a writer I guess, meeting amazing people like Scot, Matt, and Ned who are willing to share their lives and help with "research." These people have all had a long-lasting effect on my life and I'm so glad to have known them. So to everyone who's ever helped me with research on a book—I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. You make my books more realistic and you've made my life richer. Thank you.


At 10/26/2006 4:09 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

What an experience, Julie! Wow. And what's this book about?

I agree. Research is so much fun! And people are generally so nice about answering stupid questions. I once called the librarian of a small Iowa town -- just out of the blue -- and asked a bajillion questions about the town and surrounding area. She still sends me a Christmas card every year.

For my last book I called a local coroner and asked about the decay process of a human corpse. He wasn't as helpful as he could have been, come to think of it. In fact, he was rather suspicious-sounding. Kept asking me my name...

At 10/26/2006 7:54 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Kerry, you crack me up! I aspire to one day be as good as you are in the writing world, humor world, and friend world. You're awesome.

The new book is another romantic suspense of course. I have an amazing heroine that I am absolutely loving because of her layers. She's got a lot of spunk. Kind of like you, but a little taller. LOL

At 10/27/2006 10:29 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Hope she's thinner and younger, too! I'm a little horrified, frankly, at the resemblence I'm beginning to bear to Jessica Fletcher. Whatever happened to those Nancy Drew years, anyway?

I can't wait! Do you give sneak previews?

At 10/27/2006 11:43 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

For you, always!

What DID happen to the Nancy Drew years. Seems like they went WAY too fast.


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