Is All That Research Necessary? by Carolina Valdez
Tie ’Em Up, Hold ’Em Down will be released by Amber Quill Allure August 10th, and as I began it I wondered if I was crazy to tackle a novella involving slow pitch baseball, firefighting, and search and rescue. After all, it was a big chunk, and I was the one crafting the story. I didn’t have to do this! Call me dogged – or maybe just plain stubborn – but I stuck with it.
You need to understand those subjects weren’t entirely new to me. That gave me the courage to use them. The men in my family had played baseball while I cheered from the sidelines. Training to be a MIC (mobile intensive care) Nurse many years ago, I’d spent twenty hours in a fire station, hanging out and riding with their paramedics. That gave me an atmosphere from which to create my own station and a glimpse into how they lived while on duty. There are no women in this novella, but I’d recently seen a presentation to eighth grade girls by a female firefighter, and I even knew the seventy-pound weight of their backpacks was the same whether carried by men or women.
I’ve watched the Dog Whisperer on TV, seen TV specials on search and rescue teams, and, in my Sisters in Crime chapter meetings, heard an expert on search hounds who breeds Bloodhounds.
No matter how familiar the subjects I’d chosen were for me, I’d have been a fool to avoid researching each one. The tools I used included the Internet, personal interviews and the local library, with its interlibrary loan system, periodicals, books and videos. I could have accessed the Internet in the library if I hadn’t had my own computers.
As an example, I decided to use a Bloodhound, but what colors did they come in? How much did they weigh? An email contact with a breeder gave me that information. I decided which color I liked and gave my hound a name. An Internet look at search and rescue teams gave me clues as to other hounds used and revealed that some are air scenters and others are ground scenters. Since Bloodhounds are ground scenters, I chose an air scenter as my second dog. A look at online photos of the SAR team in my county as they assembled to train sparked the opening scenes of my story.
As for firefighting, I spoke by phone with a battalion chief, stopped firefighters when I saw them ready to leave a call or found them in the supermarket. Did they sleep dormitory style? Who was in charge on a call? Yes, they still come down poles and only have one minute to hit the mat at the bottom once the alarm sounds. A loudspeaker tells them the nature of the call and what to roll. The captain confirms it via radio.
Since I was writing about gays, I didn’t have the courage to ask for a tour of the main firehouse in my town.
I checked my town’s firefighter job descriptions online. Googling firefighting equipment and gear led me to ask about the mat and the boots and suits they use on different calls. I saw yellow suits in the back of an engine when I spoke to some men leaving a call up my street. Yes, they leave their suits in the truck or engine.
Well, what do you know – there are trucks and there are engines! Different purposes for various calls.
Obviously, I wasn’t going to use all the information in my story, but it would’ve been stupid not to look in depth for more than I’d personally experienced. I guess the short answer to the question posed in the title is: YES…all that research IS necessary. It makes your story ring with authenticity.
Carolina Valdez – Where passion unlocks the sweet ecstasies of love
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