I have to love Richard Castle. This fictional author on the TV drama Castle knows everybody. He’s rubbed shoulders with the leaders of the day and – more fun – with experts in specific areas. Mafia bosses, CIA spooks and even the nameless bureaucrats who know where the paper trail leads have all shared their knowledge of their own special worlds with this writer.
And, he has a number of top-selling books out. For real. Just check Amazon or other bookstores.
Is fiction writing really like this? It can be. The words, “I’m writing a novel and I need your expertise,” can open doors. So can real-world career conversations that sometimes inform writers’ fiction. For example, the conversations I’ve had about renewable energy with experts for my day job as a journalist informed the wind farm discussion in my Glenhoolie series, “The Winds of Glenhoolie.” (I’m finishing the third book in the series now and plan to send it to editing over the summer.)
Read the acknowledgements of your favorite books. You’ll see what I’m talking about. Diana Gabaldon, for example, routinely thanks a series of people for helping with the Gaelic to researching 18th century Scottish customs, superstitions and herbal medicines for her best-selling Outlander series. She’s not alone by any stretch of the imagination.
Writers write what we know, and good writers research what we don’t know, to make our books as accurate as possible. That research, after all, is how Castle ended up consulting for the NYPD.