Monday, August 8, 2011

Write about what you know, but if you don’t know…

I loved researching “Sleeper’s Run.” Well, I love research, period. Granted, many of the themes portrayed in the story are of general interest to me, so not only did I have a good running start, but it also made the process more enjoyable. Piles of non-fiction texts, documentaries and articles informed me about history, politics, military units, tactics, technology, espionage and other topics. My life-long affair with martial arts definitely came in handy. I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of martial arts throughout my life, even becoming an instructor for a few years. The fighting systems involved in the plot were not randomly chosen. Needless to say, a lot of care and technical savvy went into to the fight scenes/self-defense situations in the story. I also drew from my knowledge of rock climbing, scuba diving, interest in Special Operation Forces and passion for history and traveling. Yet, that wasn’t enough for me.
When we think about a writer, one pictures some disheveled hermit wearing an old robe with socks and sandals, ie. Johnny Depp in the “Secret Window." There’s some truth to that, but how many authors do you know spend a day escaping a team of trackers after having been kidnapped?
That was the final exam of an urban survival class I took in the name of research. The course taught me how to pick locks, do social engineering, disappear into a crowd and other cool skills that came handy when writing Sleeper’s. That and it was also a popular topic of conversation at social gatherings. “Come here and entertain us with your stories of urban survival,” someone asked me in a recent friend’s wedding. Tactical shooting, knife self-defense and a few flying lessons also became part of the repertoire of things I chose to experience first hand.
Make no mistake I’m a weekend warrior. In no way do my forays into these exciting worlds put me anywhere near in the same league as my protagonist, the true professionals he represents, or the people who spend their lives dedicated to their respective disciplines. Curiosity and personal edification aside, this type of research informed me of the mechanics and psychology required to represent Eric Caine's abilities as realistic as I could. In some instances it even changed the way I looked at certain things, and it made me gain a whole new appreciation for the work of those who have to use this knowledge in the real world.
These experiences also put me in front of people who have to learn those skills as part of their job: federal agents, the military, law enforcement, etc. and of course, their instructors. I spent those priceless encounters trying to pick their brain as much as I could respectfully do.
I always say “Sleeper’s Run” is a fiction novel built on a solid non-fiction foundation. Research was a lot of fun, in fact, it still is. I can’t wait for the next adventure, whether is a class, book, person or a trip that will inevitably find its way into my work. Keep on running!
Urban Survival:
Tactical Shooting:
Knife Self-Defense:

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