What I learnt this week: 23rd November 2017

Beware the writer you know

It’s easy to sit at my desk and come up with a great idea for a story. Let me rephrase. Come up with a storyline that I think is great. That’s what I did a few years ago with the latest manuscript I’m about to submit to my publisher. It’s a bit different from my usual – a bodyguard and a scientist out to protect her. A little more on the suspense side, but of course the major part of the book is still a romance.

I happily ploughed into writing about a brilliant scientist (Dr Kelly Bridges) who is working to develop a vaccine to counteract a potential bioterrorism threat; specifically that of new strains of smallpox. After all, I’m not a numpty when it comes to science. I did a pharmacy degree and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for twenty odd years. I could write about this.

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And actually it’s true. I can. What I can’t tell you though, is whether what I’m writing has any degree of plausibility, or whether those kind enough to read the story (if my publisher accepts it for publication) will end up frowning/throwing their Kindle down in disgust/laughing their socks off at my attempts to write about vaccine development. And that’s just on my heroine’s side.

My hero (Marc Jacobs) is ex-special forces, but now works for a security company. Of course I can google things like equipment he might come across, language he might use, but is it credible? My experience with military life is a big fat zero, and though I watch television/read books involving special forces, most of it comes from America, and my hero is British.

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Suddenly I’m left wondering why I didn’t write about a pharmacist/medical writer/romance where they met on holiday and didn’t have to discuss their jobs, ever.

Thankfully though, this is where friends come in. Those in the pharma industry will soon find me asking them questions such as:

  • is it plausible to have my heroine working on finding a special ‘ingredient’ to add to the small pox vaccine to make it more powerful, protecting against any variant of small pox terrorists might try and create?
  • what type of laboratory equipment might she use to run tests?

Fear not, there is little science in the story, but I want to ensure my kind readers laugh only at Marc’s wisecracks (well, he made me giggle) and not at the storyline itself.

As for the military questions, when my cousin came to visit with her boyfriend, we got talking about this book, and he was foolish enough to mention that he knew friends who’d been in the special forces. Yes, you can bet he now finds himself with a list of questions to ask them. Some ¬†are below, with answers he’s already found out in brackets.

  • is the term SNAFU still used for something that’s gone belly-up? (apparently it’s American, so I’ve asked for a British alternative. If you don’t know what SNAF stands for, look it up – it made me smile but is a little rude to put on my blog…)
  • is there a slang term for the binoculars they use at night? (NVG’s, night vision goggles)
  • what would Marc call his boss in the military (CO – commanding officer)

The morale of this? If you know a writer, keep your lips firmly sealed about what you do, or the friends you have. Otherwise you too might end up having to ask them what type of gun a terrorist might use (apparently AK47 is a good choice…)