I write women’s contemporary romance set in New Zealand with a strong emphasis on humour. I’d like to be able to say I plan my books but the truth is they tend to plan themselves, however there are benefits to this. I had to (had to) research professional basketball for my fourth book Barefoot which meant I had to sit and watch a lot of very tall, very fit men pound around the basketball court. My eyes were worn out keeping track of them all.
I usually run my ideas for plots past my husband first who listens patiently and invariably says, ‘Sounds great. What do you know about that industry/situation/theme?’ To which I invariably answer, ‘Nothing, I’ll do some research.’
My second book, Divine, was about a woman named Tara whose husband leaves her to become a woman, and Tara stumbles into a job as a dominatrix telephone sex worker. My husband was thrilled when I announced I was going to research the dominatrix telephone sex industry and kept offering to play the caller if I needed to practice. Whenever I mention this at publicity events it’s amazing how the men in the audience sit up straighter. When I ask: ‘So how would you research the telephone sex industry?’ they crane their necks to see who answers, and get an awful shock if their wife puts up her hand.
So where did I go for help? The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, of course.
They were fabulous. I met a woman named Sue who used to manage a telephone sex service, and a transgender woman named Hana. The information I got from them was pure gold. I’m a lapsed emergency room nurse (you never stop being a nurse, you just lapse). I think I’m fairly unshockable but my jaw was on the floor while I listened to them. I ran through my version of what a dominatrix would say over the telephone. Sue said I was pathetic. ‘You’re too nice. TOUGHEN UP!’
I get to travel when I do research. A couple of years ago, I went to the South Island of New Zealand (think Lord Of The Rings territory), to visit a cherry orchard. There are few things prettier than a cherry orchard. There’s something very sexy about blossoms, fruit, and men and women fighting each other and the elements at two o’clock on a frosty morning while helicopters fly overhead. While I was there I entered the annual cherry pit spitting competition and got beaten by a six-year-old who took her nana with her when she went to “spit” because she was so shy. The overall winner posted a distance of thirteen metres (about 42 feet). I spat down my chin, managed one metre and retired.
More recently, I’ve visited a vineyard in Marlborough which is the setting for the book I’m writing at the moment, and the second of my soldier books (the first, Hand Me Down, is set in the cherry orchard). Wandering along rows of vines in brilliant sunshine and being encouraged to sample Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay/Merlot/Pinot Gris/Pinot Noir grapes is no hardship. The difference between me and the professionals is I don’t spit the grapes out, I eat them. At no point was I on holiday, I had a job to do, and my research is ongoing. If you could see my wine rack, you’d understand I’m telling the truth.
In three of my books the male character has been American: Dan Brogan in Bonkers is a paediatric surgeon who wears mismatched socks; his brother, Glenn Brogan is the smartarse ex-NBA star in Barefoot, and Ross Fabello is a very successful author with a bad case of writer’s block who butts heads with a New Zealand ED nurse called Danny in Knotted.
I’ll be making a start on the last book in the Bonkers trilogy soon, which means I’ll be revisiting Dan and Glenn and their wives and babies. It’s a perfect excuse to do some research in the USA.
I’ll have to suggest it to my husband.
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