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 e-medicine.com
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…)