If you’re a writer, nothing you’ve ever done, nothing you’ve ever learnt, or experienced will ever go to waste. I was thinking this profound thought the other day, when considering my latest work-in-progress. It’s a paranormal romance, set in India, Hong Kong and Melbourne and it touches on Indian and Australian history, as well as tiger poaching.
Wow. That’s quite a canvas, isn’t it? But you know the old saying – ‘write what you know’. To which I would add ‘and research the bits you don’t’. So what did I know? Well, I’ve lived in Melbourne, I’ve visited Hong Kong and I studied Indian history for three years as part of my BA(Hons) in history. I wanted to weave in a little of the history of the Afghan cameleers in Australia, so I used the internet for what I wanted to know. To learn more about tigers I watched documentaries by the master, David Attenborough, and went to the net to learn what I needed about tiger poaching.
The Indian part of the story had several layers. This wasn’t a history lesson, it was a novel about an Australian doctor confronted by a very different culture. I had to have enough of an idea of how that would work. My interest in India helped, because I had some basic understanding of how caste works and its impact on workers. But movies like ‘Ghandi’ and ‘A Passage to India’ added some color, as did traveler accounts I encountered on the net. I also had to learn enough about how a broken hip affects the patient and how it’s treated to make that thread convincing. One man who had experienced a broken hip had actually chronicled his recovery. Very useful.
This particular book (working title ‘Shadow of the Tiger’) is contemporary. Most of my other work is science fiction romance. Write what you know? How does that work?
Let’s take ‘Morgan’s Choice’. You’ll find a society which quite possibly derives from the Indian caste system. I wonder where I got that from? The main character, Morgan, is human but she has a supercomputer in her brain. This isn’t new; the concept is in other books. I’d suggest the difference with Morgan is I emphasise her humanity more than her data skills. Be that as it may, I worked for many years in the computer industry, first as a programmer and later as an analyst and team leader. So I felt I had a good chance of making Morgan’s activities in the cyber world convincing.
In my other two books, the ‘Iron Admiral’ series, I introduced an alien species called the ptorix. They’re not just a nightmare I dreamed up one night. I’ve had an abiding interest in nature and animals, as well as astronomy and cosmology, for many, many years and my alien species was well thought out, with characteristics you would expect in a technologically advanced society.
That history background has been useful many times over. Who said a BA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on? The plot in ‘The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy’ is loosely based on a real, historical incident when Hitler’s secret police, dressed as Poles, staged an attack on a German radio station near the Polish border to give the Fuhrer an excuse to start what became World War 2.
See what I mean? Nothing is ever wasted.
Oh – one more thing; Sally Carter, MC of ‘Shadow of the Tiger’, is a very keen amateur photographer. Gosh, what a coincidence. 🙂