Thursday, January 17, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - Kate Hardy on Research

This Wednesday at The Pink Heart Society the very lovely Kate Hardy is here to talk to us all about the joys of Research...

One of the things I love about writing Medical romances is doing the research. I’m not a trained medic, but before I had my first Medical romance accepted by Mills & Boon I was a freelance journalist specialising in health articles (pregnancy, birth and women’s health). So I was used to interviewing senior doctors and dealing with medical terminology – and to turning jargon into something everyone could understand!

The medical aspect of Medical Romances is more than just scene-setting. It’s there to develop the relationship between the hero and heroine; when they work together and they see how each other deals with a crisis and/or behaves towards colleagues or patients, it often gives them a different view of each other. Medical scenarios can also help to underpin the internal conflict and can force the hero/heroine to confront something they’ve been avoiding. Plus you can get some really high-octane drama in there – something that really is a matter of life and death!

If you love medical-based TV dramas - Casualty and Holby City in the UK, ER, House and Gray’s Anatomy in the US – you’ll love Medical Romances. And, in common with the scriptwriters of TV dramas, authors of Medical Romances need to do their research – it’s important that the details of symptoms and treatments are correct. At the same time, the medical scenarios shouldn’t pull the reader out of the book or distance them from the romance, so there’s a fine line to tread.

This is where being a non-medic comes into its own: I can avoid overkill in the detail. But it also means I need to do my research in order to get the details right. Being a plotter rather than a pantster also helps. I know up front before I write a book what the main conflicts are and the kind of setting (e.g. maternity ward, family doctor, emergency room), so I know precisely what kinds of cases will confirm the hero/heroine’s beliefs and what will really turn the thumbscrews. So from there I can do my research upfront - starting with the Oxford Handbooks (as used by medics as a quick aide memoire), and then online with the better general health sites (such as , Netdoctor and Patient UK - the last is particularly good for helping to find specialist support groups). If I’m really stuck, I know enough medics to ask for help.

Or there’s the personal research angle. It’s fairly well known that I started writing my first Medical Romance, A Baby of Her Own, at my baby’s bedside in hospital. When I wrote The Firefighter’s Fiancé, I asked my local fire service if they could show me round, and they even did a test call so I could hear what it all sounded like. (Yes, it’s a tough life, having to chat to hunky firemen for a couple of hours, but someone has to do it – and they were brilliant when I ran my scenarios by them, telling me why one of them didn’t work and suggesting something I hadn’t even thought of.) And in the current book I’ve been researching ballooning. (Yes, it’s a medical.)

I also write for Modern Heat – and I’ve had a lot of fun researching them, too. In The Pregnancy Ultimatum (my current US release) I had to do a lot of research on gardening; In One Night, One Baby (February’s Aussie release), I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about storm-chasing; and in In Bed With Her Italian Boss (the US version of Breakfast at Giovanni’s, out in April) I was forced to go to lots of cafés with my best local friend in the name of research – after all, how else are you going to find out how to make the perfect latte?

And on the subject of Breakfast at Giovanni’s… I have some very exciting news. Stop by my blog on Thursday afternoon (UK time) and you’ll get a chance to win a copy of my 25th romance novel in Mills & Boon’s 100th year… and as things come in threes, there is a third reason why I’m giving away a book! (But you’ll have to wait until Thursday UK time to find out…)

Thanks Kate!

To find out more about the incredibly prolific Kate, her writing and her latest releases you can visit both her Website and her Blog...

And of course WE ALL now need to know what the third reason is, don't we??? Kate???


  1. How intriguing! I will definitely be stopping by to find out that third reason...

    I love research, and one gold mine for me is children's books. That probably sounds really simplistic, but a nonfiction children's book aimed at the 4th-6th grade level really has the kind of details you'd like to put in a book, and gives you a great overview of the subject. I also love travel books and travel diaries to get a sense of place.

    Thanks, Kate!

    Kate Hewitt

  2. I love research too. It often takes you down very strange by ways. For Blue Remembered Heels I had to research Catholic funeral rites when there wasn't a body - I think thats my wierdest pieces of research to date.

  3. Kate - what a great idea. Will raid my children's bookshelves forthwith. (Mind you, son is into these 'quirky facts' books and daughter is into Jacqueline Wilson... but I bet there are some good springboards there.)

    Nell - that's definitely unusual :o) - I think one of my own weirdest ones for fiction was the microwave grape racing. (It was brilliant. My editor nixed it as too nerdy...) My best one for non-fiction was the running race between two men who had two wooden legs each. (I kid you not. This is why I love local history!)

  4. And, Trish - patience, Grasshopper :o)

    Tomorrow afternoon, UK time, all will be revealed.

    (Trust me, it's harder for me to keep quiet than it is for you to wait... I have to go and look at nice pictures of Antonio Banderas now to calm me down.)

  5. LOL, Kate...are you sure that picture will calm you down???
    Love the tips. Naughty of you to make us wait...but what fun!

    Carol Hutchens

  6. Carol - it'll put a smile on my face, anyway.

    Patience, Grasshopper. (That's my new mantra. And it was either Kelly Hunter or Robyn Grady who started that one - they're both lovely so they can both share the credit!)

  7. I was going to put Kate H but that's not specific enough...Kate Hewitt...I also use kids books a lot. Enough detail, but not so much that it reads like a university text. You can learn a lot from that level of book. I buy a lot of them from Scholastic - my daughter's book orders. They are a lot cheaper that way.

    Research IS fun...but sometimes too much fun and contributes to

  8. Donna, you wouldn't say I'm a procrastinator, would you?

    (But actually you're right - research can be too much fun! Like the time I found out about microwave grape racing and my ed made me take it out...)

  9. Congratulations on all those great books and #24. I do want to know #3.

  10. Microwave grape racing? *splutters*

    My kids had turtle races with clementines over the holidays. Ask me about that some time.

  11. Patience, Grasshopper... my dh always says that too! If I'm remembering correctly, it's from that 1970s kung fu type show with Keith Carradine? LOL! It's funny to see someone else saying it. A great turn of phrase!

    :) Kate Hewitt

  12. Maureen - thank you. As soon as I'm able to, I will tell the world!

    Donna - seriously. :o) And I want to know about the turtles. You know, you really need to come back to the UK and we can sit and drink coffee and eat cake and natter for ages :o)

    Kate - yep, it is indeed. And a great phrase. (As I said, it was Robbie or Kelly who started this, just before Christmas...)

  13. So..the turtles. At Christmas they sell boxes of clementines, and each one is wrapped in a green tissue.

    The librarian at the school showed my girls how to twist the corners (to look like legs), then you roll the clementine. Since they are not perfectly round they sort of bobble...and hence a turtle is born.

    And yes, I'd love to come back and have time to spend visiting instead of being so hectic! Sigh....

  14. Love the story, Donna.

    Oh, and the news is now live :o)

    Come and find out here - and enter the competition to win a copy of Breakfast at Giovanni's!