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Kylie Brant

 

The Business of Murder

 

I think the worst writing advice I’ve ever heard is that old adage “write what you know”. What I know is not all that interesting. Oh sure, I’ve got some good material based on experience that might make an entertaining short story. If someone wants to know how to make dinner for seven with only a jar of salsa, three chicken breasts and a box of Cheerios, I’m your gal. Or for those wondering what happens when the kids decide to put the dog in the dryer (on air fluff, thank God) so I wouldn’t figure out they’d let her outside after I’d told them not to…again, I know that sort of thing.

 

It’s just not the kind of experience that lends itself to writing dark romantic thrillers.

 

How can I write what I know when my business is murder? Writing about it that is. It’s an area where one usually isn’t encouraged to go out and get some first hand experience!

 

Luckily, the Internet makes research easy. Before I start each book I usually buy two or three non-fiction titles online (if I don’t have subject appropriate ones in my own research library). I read these as I’m writing. I search the Internet for valid information. And very early in each book I start reaching out to experts in the area.

 

My books tend to have a law enforcement / forensics slant. Most police departments and FBI field offices have Public Affairs numbers staffed with veteran officers. That always provides me a good place to start. I approach them with a list of questions and invariably they refer me on to another detective who has specific experience in the subject matter I’m interested in. My November release, Waking the Dead, features a forensic anthropologist heroine. I’m not quite sure what made me think it was a good idea to write about cleaning skeletal remains, extracting DNA from bone and the feeding habits of dermestid beetles. But searching online I discovered several forensic organizations and some have searchable members lists. I made several contacts, a couple of whom helped quite a bit over the course of a book.

 

Expert contacts lend credibility to the story and give me information specific to the plot lines that I often can’t find in books. I know I’m not going to get everything right, but I certainly strive to!

 

I don’t often travel to the place I set the book first, but I did for Waking the Dead. I have a sister in Oregon who’s very outdoorsy and she and her husband drove me to McKenzie Bridge, where we hiked the Willamette Forest and crawled through caves. She also introduced me to a friend of hers who told me about the perfect cave for my villain to dump seven sets of skeletal remains in. When I was walking through the forest the entire final scene of the book just unfolded in my mind. It was a wonderful thing!

 

Over the years I’ve talked to FBI agents, ex-CIA agents, SWAT officers, police detectives, forensic lab technicians, forensic anthropologists. . .the list grows with every story. I’m consistently amazed at how generous people can be with their time.  As a matter of fact, I just spent an hour and a half on the phone today with a forensic linguist.  The heroine of my current story is a forensic linguist, so the conversation was absolutely fascinating.  It’ll come in handy as I build my heroine’s credibility in her chosen field. 

 

Although once again, I’m left wondering where I was at on career day in high school!

 

Kylie Brant is the author of twenty-eight romantic suspense novels for Silhouette and Berkley.  Her latest release, WAKING THE DEAD is on the shelves this month.  WAKING NIGHTMARE and WAKING EVIL were September and October releases, respectively.

Walking the Dead: The Mindhunters

Walking the Dead: The Mindhunters

Visit Kylie’s website.

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