When Research Rules the Writing by Peggy Jaeger
Most writers, myself included, are researchers. We can’t always—as the old rule states—write what we know. For instance, I was born, lived, and will probably die an East Coast girl. I know nothing firsthand about the West, cowboys, or cattle. But I’ve written about those topics because I’ve done research on them, firsthand, and not merely by reading an on-line encyclopedia or doing a Google topic search. Research comes in many forms, and in my case, my life and lifestyle, have been a source of research material for years.
When I set out to tell Gemma Laine’s story in A SHOT AT LOVE I envisioned her as the Warrior sister – the one everyone turns to for protection. Gemma was the one who took care of the bullies in school who tormented her younger sisters. An incident while she was a teenager prompted her to learn how to defend herself and led to her life-long study of Martial arts. She’s also proficient in weapons and weaponry, firearms among them. In order to have readers who have knowledge of guns and self-defense techniques believe her expertise in these areas, I needed to make sure I got it right. I couldn’t have her defending herself against an attacker in a way that didn’t ring true. Readers are smart. Wicked smart. If something is erroneous in your narrative they will realize it and let you know.
So I had to get Gemma’s skills perfect.
This was one of those times when research paid off – in my personal life and in my writing. Let me explain.
My daughter was 4 years old when, as a family, we attended a street fair/sidewalk days event in our new town. One of the businesses was a Martial Arts academy specializing in instruction for younger children. The class was called Tiny Tigers and geared towards kids 4 to 8. My daughter, her little hand in mine, watched the drill team from the academy perform and asked her father and I if she could “learn to do that.” Hubby and I took one look at each other and without even discussing it, said “Yes!” in unison. My daughter was tiny for her age, smart ( already having a second grade reading level) and was due to start kindergarten shortly at the age of 4 and be with kids, some of who, were close to 6. We knew these factors might be difficult for her to deal with (bullies are common, everywhere) and thought if she had some skills and knowledge on how to defend herself both physically and verbally, it would help.
And it did. She was the only girl in the Tiny Tigers class of 10, the youngest, and (in her parents eyes) the cutest and most talented. All of the boys were older, the average age 7, and as most 7-year-old boys are, they were often unfocused and rambunctious, preferring to run around and punch each other, instead of learning. They laughed at my daughter when she drilled with them. Made fun of her tiny statue and “youth,’ and the fact that she was a girl. They stopped laughing when she quickly started to outrank them, move ahead, and earn her colored belts. By the end of the twelve week class most of those boys looked to her with respect, as an equal, and began treating her as “just one of the boys.”
We were so impressed with her training and the confidence it gave her, that her father and I joined the academy as well and as a family we were introduced to varied disciplines, weaponry, and individual focus and control techniques. We remained students for over 10 years, until the school closed down. That decade of instruction allowed me to write Gemma’s scenes of self-defense, weaponry skill, and body grappling prowess without issue. I knew the moves I wrote for her and the way her body responded would ring true to readers since I’d performed most of them myself. I knew what it felt like to be thrown to the ground in an attack. I also knew how to prevent it or turn the tables on an attacker.
Those years of training—which in reality were intense personal research—allowed me to walk the walk, and talk the talk, for Gemma.
Guns were another story. East Coast, city girl, remember? But once again, my writing benefitted from my life style.
Two years ago my husband thought it might be “ fun” for he and I to learn how to handle a gun. Since we live in a pretty rural area in New England ( still East Coast, just not city) where guns are not uncommon, it was a sound idea, so we began instruction and shooting training with a local, well respected gunsmith. The first time I ever held a gun in my hand I will be honest and tell you I was terrified. Despite the fact the weapon was empty of bullets, just the thought that I could maim, seriously injure, or kill someone with it made me nervous. Plus, guns are heavy! That’s something no one tells you beforehand. The first time I lifted the Glock I had to forcefully hold it up with two hands so it wouldn’t slip. Now I understand why most people use a two handed grip when holding and aiming a firearm. It showed me just how wrong movies and television were in portraying how a gun is held.
While I will never be a sharpshooter no matter how much I practice, I can hit a target. A stationary target, but one none the less. Since Gemma and Ky are so isolated for much of the book in an attempt to keep her safe from the man who wants her dead, it was important she know how to shoot and ultimately shoot to kill. The scene in the book where she demonstrates to Ky just what a good shot she is goes a long way in proving to him how capable she is. That Ky is so sexually and emotionally turned on by her proficiency is a turning point for their relationship, and his mounting feelings for her.
I will never classify myself as the Warrior archetype. I’m a little too….girly…for that to be accurate. But having firsthand knowledge of how to defend myself against an attack, of how to use fighting instruments competently, and to be willing and able to shoot a gun if needed, went a long way in making Gemma Laine a believable character.
And I will admit, she is one of my favorite characters ever.
A Shot At Love by Peggy Jaeger
Will Cook For Love #2
Photographer Gemma Laine is looking for arresting faces on the streets of Manhattan when her camera captures something shocking—a triple murder. In that moment, she becomes a target for the mob—and a top priority for a very determined, breathtakingly handsome, FBI special agent. With deadlines to meet and photo shoots on her calendar, Gemma chafes at the idea of protection, but every moment she spends under his watchful eye is a temptation to lose herself in his muscular arms . . .
With two of his men and one crucial witness dead, Special Agent Kyros Pappandreos can’t afford to be distracted. But Gemma is dazzling—and her connection to Kandy Laine’s high-profile cooking empire makes her an especially easy mark for some very bad people. Keeping her safe is much more pleasure than business, but as the heat between them starts to sizzle, Ky is set to investigate whether they have a shot at love . . .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance author who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in patient care unit during the 1990s. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and is the Secretary of her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter. When she’s not writing she can be found cooking. With over 100 cookbooks, dog eared and well loved, her passion for writing is only seconded by her desire to create the perfect meal for those she loves. Visit her at www.PeggyJaeger.com.
Author`s Facebook: www.facebook.com/PeggyJaeger.Author