Wednesday, March 14, 2012

FAQs -- How Do You Research Jobs?

The heroes and heroines in my 80 contemporary romance novels have held a whole lot of different kinds of jobs, and I'm often asked if I actually did all those things. Was I a banker, a lawyer, a hotel manager? Did I run a bookstore or a B&B?

No to all of those. Maybe in my next life.

I had a fair number of short-term jobs before I settled into full time writing. My longest-lasting job was as a librarian, so when I wasn't busy with my regular duties, I was wandering the stacks and exploring all the intriguing new directions I found. (And even my regular duties helped -- as I re-shelved books, I speed-read them and set aside the ones I wanted to study more thoroughly.) And perhaps most importantly, I'm a reporter by training, so long ago I learned to ask the questions necessary to get a feel for someone else's profession and their daily routine, in order to write feature stories about them.

I was also selective about the jobs I chose and how I handled them. There are professions I never tackled, like law enforcement -- I figured it would be too hard (for me!) to make a cop sound and act like a cop. Or if it was a complex job, I sometimes gave it to the hero -- whose head I was in less frequently -- rather than to the heroine. And then I checked it out with a pro. In the case of my sexy pediatrician hero, that meant having a friend who's a doctor read the manuscript to see if I'd gotten the tone right.

The toughest story, I think, was the book about the two architects -- because their conversation had to always be on a professional level. One of them couldn't exactly explain to the other who Frank Lloyd Wright was and why his Prairie School of architecture was important!

Another challenging profession was in The Takeover Bid, where my heroine ran a junkyard that she'd turned into a classic car business. Though I resisted, she just would not do anything else, so I gave in and read up on classic cars. And when I wrote the book about the two lawyers (The Fake Fiance) I took my attorney to lunch and picked his brain about when attraction crossed the line into unethical behavior.

People love it when their professions are shown accurately and positively, so most of them are happy to help writers get it correct. It helps to have some scenarios in mind of things you'd like your characters to do, and then you can ask concrete questions.

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