By Leah Ashton
Many writers are told to "write what you know". This isn't actually meant to be taken literally, and really refers to tapping into your own experiences, observations and emotions to inform your writing - to give it authenticity. There are some great articles that explain this far better than I could, like this one.
But, often taking this advice literally is also successful - for example Tess Gerritsen writes medical thrillers - and is a doctor.
In my first book, Secrets & Speed Dating, my heroine, Sophie, lives in Perth (my home town) and has a job very similar to my day job. So I was definitely writing what I knew! However, the book did deal with infertility, but fortunately my uncle is a GP, and he was able to answer my medical questions.
In my second book, A Girl Less Ordinary (out in June!), my heroine, Ella, is an Image Consultant. I knew very little about this type of career, so needed to do a lot more research - some help from a friend (*waves at Nikki*) for the media aspects, but otherwise I read lots of articles online and watched many Youtube videos (think videos on colour analysis, business-appropriate shoes, personal branding etc). This book was set in Sydney, where I lived for a few years, so the setting didn't require much research - only a little bit for the Blue Mountains scenes, a location I've only visited a couple of times. So, definitely more research required than for my first book, but again - there was still a lot of writing what I knew (particularly related to the corporate aspects of the plot (boardrooms etc) and the setting).
Now - in the book I'm writing at the moment, my heroine, Ruby, works in film production, and the story takes place during the filming of a feature film in a tiny country town in the middle of New South Wales. I know nothing about film production, and not much more about tiny country towns. So this book has been a real learning curve! My sister works in film, and she has been amazingly helpful, and I'm also reading text books and researching online. But, to be honest, I underestimated how much I would need to know in order to give the story authenticity. It's been fun learning along the way - but also a lot of work! It's also really opened my eyes - that I *can* write about something I know nothing about - I just need to do the research. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but I guess in my first two books I'd still been hanging onto settings that I had some experience and knowledge in - and this time I'm not.
I feel like this whole new world has opened up for me!
So I was wondering, if you're a writer - what is the coolest thing you've researched for a story? And if you're a reader, is there a particularly cool job or setting you've really enjoyed reading about?