Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marie and The Very Bad Interview

I wrote this blog two years ago, but it's so relevant to what I'm doing now that I wanted to share it again. It has to do with research, and since I'm currently researching the heck out of my current characters for my next Sourcebooks series, I wanted to share the laugh. (And for the record, there is A LOT to know about the worlds of automechanics and nurses.) Note: I wrote this post while doing research for How to Handle a Heartbreaker.

I thought I’d talk about research today. I write steamy romance, and one of the most common questions I get from people is how I do my research. My usual instinct is to answer with something sarcastic, like, “Why, I just had a foursome the other day. I can honestly admit  that you can fit many things in places you never thought you could.” Or, “Why yes. I did just enjoy sex with a werewolf in the backseat of my Benz while a vampire watched.”
I mean, really. I’ve had sex. Yes. There. I admit it. I’ve also read a lot and seen sexy movies. I know how things fit together, and it’s not that difficult to write scenes of intimacy in my stories. However, for the more technical aspects of my characters—and I’m not talking breast size—as in, their professions or the cities in which my characters live, I do research.
I wrote about shapeshifters in Cape May, New Jersey—a place I’ve been visiting since I was a kid. My stories have been set in Augusta, GA, Bend, OR, and Seattle, WA, all places where I’ve lived and/or spent time. My Cougar Falls stories set in Montana have grossed hours upon hours of research into the state. At some point I’ll take a trip out there to see Glacier National Park, but until then, I’ve made do with books and the Internet.
In the course of my latest contemporary romance novels, my characters are real people. No psychics or shapeshifters, no monsters, aliens, or fetish enthusiasts. In the first book [The Troublemaker Next Door], an interior designer meets a sexy plumber. And in the book I’m working on now, the plumber’s business partner—also a plumber—falls for a romance writer. (Yes, her job is cliché, but work with me here.) I understand her easily. The plumber I needed more information on.
And now to the funny story…
A great guy referred by my mother worked on my house. The guy owns a landscaping and construction company. Therefore I felt safe asking him for a plumber to get some reference material from. Now the friend knows I write romance, so I figured he’d tell the plumber this. I got a phone number and called said plumber. I wanted to do the interview in person, but this guy wasn’t having it. From what I gathered, he was an older fellow. When he mentioned he was a busy man and would rather do the interview over the phone, because he worked for a living and didn’t “do computers,” I should have taken the hint and run.
Did I? No. I mean, the guy had agreed to answer my questions, so he couldn’t be too against helping me, right?
Uh, no. Not exactly. Not at all.
I called him last Sunday. The “interview” lasted all of three long, painful minutes. It was laughably horrible.
I rang him and cringed when he barked a hello. I reintroduced myself, and he then asked why I needed the information. When I told the older gentleman, who’d been in the plumbing biz for forty years, that I write romance, there was dead silence on the other end. Not to be discouraged, I was my normal cheerful, thankful self and asked my questions. What is common language for what plumbers do? What are the tools they use most? What types of jobs are more common than others? What are some common misconceptions about what he does?
For each question, I received short answers that didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. He wasn’t pleasant—at all—just curt and acting as if he wanted to be anywhere but talking to me on the phone. So after yet another of his one word answers, I again thanked him for speaking to me and told him I had finished. He hung up without another word.
Immediately, several thoughts went through my mind. None of them even remotely polite. That &^%^$$#$@!! What the @!#$!!!!??
But after I settled down, I shared the awful mess with a few friends, laughed at the absurdness of it all, and through another friend, contacted a nicer, younger professional who was more than willing to sit down for coffee and explain the ins and outs of plumbing.Does old equal grumpy? Not at all, but the new guy was a lot more open to romance books and computers in general. LOL
This whole experience has taught me something. Not everyone is happy to share what they do. Of course, I had thought that since the guy had agreed to let me ask questions, the interview would proceed without issue. But I was wrong. However, even terrible events make great stories. I know I’m going to work Mr. Mean in some story of mine in the future. I have to. He was just too awful not to write about.
And hey, he even gave me this blog post. I should thank him. But I won’t.


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  1. Sorry the crusty old guy was so unhelpful...maybe he was having a really bad day! But, I am sure he will be great fodder for your next uncooperative and hard-headed character sketch, lol.

    1. Ha. Yeah, I have a character just waiting to be modeled off him. :)

  2. That's just awful, Marie! I'm glad you found someone more helpful.

    1. It was so horrible it was funny. Those few minutes seemed to last forever. It was just weird because the guy agreed to the interview. I wasn't holding a gun to his head!

  3. Oh, Marie, I'm sorry that happened to you, but kudos for looking at it as a learning experience. Nothing is lost on a writer. I recently received a stony silence and was completely surprised. I was nothing but nice to this person. I got a great measure of satisfaction writing a pet turkey into my ms. and naming it after her. LOL (I went back in and took out the name, but the turkey was a great idea!

    1. Ha! Great justice served there, Ashlyn. With a side of stuffing. LOL
      You should have left the name.