Thursday, May 15, 2008

Adventures in Writing

By: Marie Force

Writing is fun. Seriously. Sure, there's some suffering when the words won't come the way we wish they would. There are aspects of the business of writing that most writers don't enjoy—particularly the endless amounts of time we spend waiting. For something to happen. Anything to happen. I spend far more time worrying about the business side than I ever do about the writing. The writing is the bliss, the joy, the endless adventure.

Since I started writing with the goal of publication four years ago, I've gotten to do some some fun things and met some great people as the result of this journey. My most recent adventure was a ride along with a police officer on a cold 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift in downtown Newport, RI, this past March. Now, Newport isn't New York City, but I found out that night that we have more than our share of crazies. I got to fly through town with the siren blaring and lights flashing, I participated in a car chase, and busted up a fist fight—and that was just the first hour. As I shivered in the biting cold, I kept thinking, "Damn! This is fun!" 

Best of all, I got to pick the brain of my new friend, Lt. Russell Hayes, a twenty-year police veteran who has done it all in his career. I met Russ through another friend, Sgt. Rita Barker, also a member of the Newport Police Department. I asked Rita to read my first romantic suspense to check my police facts. She, in turn, asked if she could also share it with Russ, who had once been a detective. That's how I gained a new source and a friend who encourages me to email him any time I have a police procedure question. I learned several interesting things that night. For instance, when I was grilling Russ about Amber Alerts and how they work, he said that never, in all his years on the force, has he encountered a genuinely missing child. Every missing child case has ended in some sort of logical explanation. As the mother of two, that made me feel much better about my greatest fear.

Another of my favorite things that have happened along the journey occurred during the writing of "The Fall," a story I hope to one day see in print. In August of 2006, my dad, who is widowed, invited my then 11-year-old daughter to go to opening night of the Newport Jazz Festival as his "date." I had to drive her to Newport on a Friday night in the summer—not something you'd ever want to do unless you had to. Next to me in bumper-to-bumper traffic was a good-looking guy in a black Mercedes convertible with Massachusetts plates bearing his initials, followed by "MD." I asked myself, where's that handsome doctor heading on this Friday night? The answer to that question is "The Fall," the story of a doctor who falls in love with his best friend's girlfriend and risks his reputation, his relationships with his family and friends, and his sanity for the love of his life. 

Part 2 of the story behind "The Fall" occurred a week or so into the writing of it—after I had created the character of Dr. Ted Duffy, a 37-year-old pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital Boston. I needed some "day in the life" details for a pediatric oncologist, so I poked around on the Internet and found a blog written by Dr. Sam Blackman—you guessed it, a 37-year-old pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital Boston! (Insert creepy music here...) I emailed Sam to tell him about the crazy coincidence and explained what I was doing with the book. He offered to answer any questions I had and gave me carte blanche to borrow anecdotes from his blog. His generosity and willingness to help amazed me. We spoke by phone one night when he was on duty, and I told him about Ted saying goodbye to a beloved patient who was dying and how he kissed the child's forehead and said, "Godspeed, buddy." Sam was very quiet for a long moment, and then he said, "I've done that, that very thing you describe, with every patient I've ever lost." 

Sam and I have talked about collaborating to turn his amazing blog into a nonfiction book we'd name "Tales from the War on Pediatric Cancer," or something like that. Ted's character has depth and authenticity I never could've achieved without Sam's help. 

Another miracle encountered on the journey.


  1. Great Blog, Marie~

    I love hearing about how other writers get their ideas and how they research and acquire information.

    The story about Sam really touched me. I've spent a whole lot of time in children's hospitals and know that most people who work within their walls are angels walking on earth. I've been blessed to meet so many. I'll have to check out Sam's blog.

    I look forward to reading all your books (after I get past my deadline) and seeing "The Fall" in print really soon.

    Robin :)

  2. Thanks, Robin! Writing The Fall made me feel very lucky to have two healthy kids. I have a friend whose daughter had leukemia at two (the child is two months older than my daughter), and it was a devastating time for everyone. Fortunately, that child is thriving today at 13. Researchers and doctors have come so far and made so many advances, which is something I talk about in the book. As my character Ted says, however, that doesn't make it any easier to lose the ones you can't save.

    Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!

  3. Marie,
    Such a fun post today - I love how being a writer helps open us up to so many new people, places, experiences, and things. You have had some great adventures in those departments, and I hope they are just the beginning of the many more you have to come!

  4. Thanks, Jessica. Your comments remind me of the Dr. Seuss book--Oh the Places You'll Go! Writers get to go so many places in the name of research that we might not otherwise have an excuse to explore. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Wonderful Post, Marie!

    I'm always amazed at all the "happy accidents" that happen to writers in the course of researching and writing. But then again, are those REALLY accidents? Sometimes ya just gotta believe in magic, and that things happen for a reason.


  6. You are so right, Aunty Cindy, these things are indeed the happy accidents that writers experience. I've had quite a few of them, some that left my mouth hanging open in disbelief. Will blog about more of them in upcoming posts.

  7. Marie
    Love your research experiences. Hmm. You've inspired me to figure out how to do some research for my story about the Caribbean. Could I use the plane fare as a tax write-off?

  8. Absolutely, Meg! Write off any book-related expenses. I did it last year for a trip to D.C. where I set two of my recent MSs. Send me a postcard from the beach. ;--))
    Thanks for coming by!

  9. You're so right, Marie. Writing is a journey and you never know where you'll go next. I know for me, I've learned so much from people I've interviewed for books. met other great authors and just plain had fun.


  10. Hi all

    What a lovely post I love hearing about how authors get their ideas and it is always so good to hear people are so willing to help with facts.
    I hope The Fall gets published I would love to read it.

    Have Fun

  11. It is soooo much fun, Linda. I agree! I'm sure you have your share of stories, too, after your many years in the business.

    Thanks, Helen, I hope it gets published someday, too. It's a story that's very near and dear to my heart. I appreciate you stopping by to say hello!

  12. Hi Marie! What a great's amazing, the things that happen to spark stories, and the almost unbelievable serendipity that can happen along the way. I'm going to have to get braver about asking've met some amazing people.

  13. I've been very lucky, Kendra, to have developed some great sources and made some wonderful new friends. When I was waiting and hoping to make a sale, it helped to remind myself of that.

  14. Marie,
    That's amazing. You have been so lucky to meet such intriguing and giving people. I admit your blog made me a little misty-eyed. I used to work in a children's oncology ward, and so admired the people I met there. I'd personally love a story about one of these amazing people. Good, good luck with "The Fall."

  15. Thanks, Christina. I'll confess to having a few weepy moments myself during the writing of that one. But I suppose that's how you know you're on to something, right? Thanks for your comment.