It’s all fun until they knock on your door.

Research is queen in the writing world. Set your story in a city like San Francisco and use detectives in your police department instead of inspectors and someone will ding you for it. We can research the minutiae of every fact in our stories until we are sure we have it right…and then sometimes we still get something wrong.

Writers make a joke about the government knocking at our doors and searching our Google searches, but sometimes if you took a look at what we have to check out you might send the men in black from the alphabet agencies our way. I’ve done research on body decomposing timelines, drowning possibilities, and the history of zombies. How to poison someone and get away with it and how to stalk and remain invisible. Scary stuff!!

If you are a member of our family-watch out! Anything and everything you do is fodder for our books. Say something ironic and funny? It may end up in that romantic comedy. Be a cop, doctor, or lawyer and mention some tidbit from work? Someone may die a terrible, gruesome death in that suspense thriller.

Several years ago I was writing a romantic comedy with a klutzy heroine who gave food poisoning to the entire fire department when she baked them a cake in thanks for rescuing her when her leg got caught in the stairs banister where she was house sitting. (romantic comedy, remember?) So I needed a food poisoning that wouldn’t kill, wouldn’t be too bad, just make you miserable. So………..the family ate sour cream that had been left out too long the previous time it was eaten (I didn’t do it.) Everyone but yours truly (hate sour cream, don’t eat it.) was miserable for hours, but lived. So while they are in the bathrooms with groans and crying I’m asking them how they feel (can’t waste an opportunity for first-hand research, of course.) To this day I’ve been accused of doing it on purpose for the story.

So, to the writers out there, if you do research, erase your searches and don’t get caught with the tainted sour cream!

Jill James, author of the Time of Zombies series (because I can’t be accused of starting the zombie apocalypse…yet.)

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