A warm welcome to Sarah Madison joining us today to talk about the re release of “Unspeakable Words”.
I’m a big believer in research.
It’s the sort of thing that if done well, blends seamlessly into the story, lending it an authenticity that the reader accepts without question, usually without conscious realization. Handled poorly, it becomes an information dump that can bore the reader. In all fairness, even if the topic is something you are wildly enthusiastic about, sharing too much background information can bore some readers. Growing up, I loved reading each new Dick Francis novel because in addition to the danger and the clever scam, I was going to learn something about an industry I was unfamiliar with—horseracing, winemaking, glassblowing, and so on. But not every reader is going to be enthralled with the ins and outs of your obsession, which I discovered when I wrote Fool’s Gold, a story set in an area of experience for me, sport horse competition. There’s a fine line between sharing your enthusiasms with your reader and losing them to minutia. Despite the fact that Fool’s Gold has won several awards, the occasional complaint of ‘too much horse stuff’ made me tone it down for the next equine-based story I wrote.
But even that isn’t as bad as not doing your research in the first place, or of getting something important wrong. Getting a little fact incorrect can throw the reader out of the story—especially if it is something important for you to get right. So before I wrote a story featuring a character with a spinal cord injury, I read multiple books on the subject, including Christopher Reeve’s autobiography, as well as personal accounts of people dealing with their own SCIs, and medical journals. It wasn’t until a fan shared that she’d been reluctant to read my story because it was where she lived and so many times writers got it wrong, but that she trusted me as an author to get it right that I realized the sheer hubris of tackling such a subject in the first place. That’s not to say that writers should never write outside their personal experience—that would be not only silly but boring as heck, too—but if you choose to write outside the realm of personal knowledge, then make damn sure you do your homework.
To be honest, I think writers are obligated to write outside their personal life experiences to a certain degree. Aside from the hope that not all of us are out there committing multiple grisly murders or fighting of orcs and evil wizards on a daily basis, there is the very fact that by trying to understand those experiences and tell stories about them, we share that understanding and empathy across a wider audience. Sure, we’re probably going to get stuff wrong, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And when we do try, we need to work as hard as we can to get it right.
The Boys of Summer rose out of an attempt to get a single dream sequence historically correct. I went online to find out what a member of the RAF would wear and what a Spitfire looked like. Instead of banging out the scene with a few details, I fell headfirst into the rabbit hole of WW2 history and stayed there for over a month. I watched movies, I read books on the Battle of Britain, I haunted the history section of bookstores, and spent hours on Wikipedia. I even had a friend visit the British War Museum on my behalf. I was appalled at my lack of knowledge of this era or what these young pilots went through. When I finally came up for air, I realized a simple dream scene was insufficient—I couldn’t rest until I shared some of what I learned about these brave young men who sacrificed so much for their country. My research findings changed the entire tone of the book, introducing a new theme that I never would have contemplated before. I think the change took a fun little ‘shipwrecked’ story and turned it into something special. I’m so glad I followed my heart.
People ask me what I did to prepare for the Sixth Sense series. The short answer is that it’s an ongoing process. Before I wrote the first book in the series, Unspeakable Words, I read A Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI by Frank Buttino. I wanted to get a feel for the atmosphere toward homosexuals in the FBI, and the book was a real eye-opener. I also read books on profiling, crime scene processing, and real life serial killer investigations. My forensic library is growing. My education continues. Last summer I attended Writer’s Police Academy for the first time (and I hope to go back again at some point) and learned all kinds of fascinating information, not the least of which is I have an affinity for forensic work. J I’m going to be posting a series of blog posts over the next few months at Authors Speak at Rainbow’s Gate on my experiences at WPA—I hope you’ll join me there!
The revised and expanded version of Unspeakable Words will be re-released on March 10th, 2017.
I’m currently working on the fourth and final installment in the series, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil. Current release date sometime in 2018. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the relaunch of the series, or coming to the party for the first time. I think you’ll enjoy it.
The Sixth Sense: Book One
Special Agent John Flynn is everything Jerry Parker is not: dangerously handsome, coolly charismatic, and respected by his peers. Special Agent Parker is dedicated and meticulous, but his abrasive personality has given him a reputation for being difficult. When new information on a cold case appears, Parker is assigned to work with Flynn, and the sparks fly as their investigative styles clash. Contact with a strange artifact changes everything when it bestows unusual and unpredictable powers on Flynn… and the two men must learn to trust each other before a killer strikes again.
First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Jerry abandoned his conversation with Flynn to look for the owner of the voice from his past. His heart squeezed painfully to a halt at the sight of Derek standing on the sidewalk behind him, only to restart at double-time.
Jesus. Talk about running into your ex.
Derek wore a brown blazer over a tan turtleneck, with a brightly colored scarf carelessly thrown around his neck. Jerry had a momentary spurt of irritation for the affectation and then felt his heart sink. There was no way he could avoid speaking to Derek without looking churlish, and he didn’t want to give him that satisfaction.
“What are you doing down here?” Derek’s voice was inappropriately coy as he raised an eyebrow in Flynn’s direction and gave him the once-over. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”
His sun-bleached hair was overly long and curling at the collar, and Jerry was secretly amused that it appeared to be getting thin on top. Derek had creases at the corners of his eyes as well. Too much time in the tanning booth, no doubt.
He must be having a cow over that.
It must be harder now for Derek to catch the attention of some sweet young ass, unless the young thing was desperate for a sugar daddy.
“Derek Collins,” Jerry said smoothly, “my partner, John Flynn. We’re here on business, Derek.”
This is the guy that I thought I loved once. Boy, was I an idiot.
“Partner?” Derek glanced swiftly at Jerry’s left hand and then gave a little laugh. “Oh, partner,” he repeated without explanation, shooting a sly smirk at Flynn.
Jerry felt Flynn go rigid with tension, like a dog with his hackles up.
Relax. Gayness isn’t catching.
Flynn shot him a wounded look, and Jerry felt ashamed when he realized Flynn wasn’t embarrassed by Derek’s innuendos, he was pissed off on Jerry’s behalf. That was just…. Wow. Warmth suddenly flooded him, and he was both embarrassed and comforted at the same time.
Inexplicably, Flynn’s face relaxed, and a lazy smile appeared. “Yes, partner.” He practically purred as he placed a hand on Jerry’s arm. “Come on, Jer. We don’t want to be late for that interview.”
He guided Jerry away with a decidedly possessive hand on the small of his back.
“What was that about?” Jerry hissed as they left Derek openmouthed behind them.
“That asshole,” Flynn growled. “I can’t believe he cheated on you with a twinkie.”
Jerry stumbled and then laughed. When he quickly glanced over his shoulder, he saw Derek staring at the two of them speculatively. He laughed even harder and clapped Flynn on the back.
“It’s ‘twink’ if you really want to be cool,” Jerry corrected him.
“Asshole.” Flynn repeated the epithet for good measure, sounding pissed off again. “I wanted to punch him, but then I realized what would jerk his chain.” He appeared insufferably pleased with himself.
“You’re an idiot,” Jerry said with amusement. “A nice one, but an idiot all the same.” It’ll be all over town by this evening that I have a hot boyfriend. He fixed a sharp look on Flynn to check his reaction, but Flynn merely whistled innocently. “Come on,” Jerry sighed, not knowing what to make of the gesture. “We’ve got work to do.”
Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. An amateur photographer and a former competitor in the horse sport known as eventing, when she’s not out hiking with the dogs or down at the stables, she’s at the laptop working on her next story. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.
Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Rainbow Awards. The Boys of Summer won Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. The Sixth Sense series was voted 2nd place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Mystery series, and 3rd place in the 2105 PGR Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series. Fool’s Gold was voted best M/M romance in the 2016 PRG Awards.
If you want to make her day, e-mail her and tell you how much you like her stories.