Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writer's Wednesday with Barbara Hannay

Harlequin Romance's Barabara Hannay is with us today...talking about work and how it can be anything but!

Research is not a dirty word…

To quote a man called William Henry: ‘What is research, but a blind date with knowledge?’

This quote seemed particularly apt for me, because research shaped a large chunk of my November Harlequin Romance, Blind Date with the Boss.

It all started back when I was teaching, when we used to have “professional development” days, usually while the students were on holidays. Although we groaned about these days, they were often fun. We had to do totally different activities from our normal classroom work and with no students around and a playful atmosphere, the teachers relaxed, let down their hair, played pranks, got to know each other better. Of course this behaviour had all sorts of on-going benefits for our working relationships during term time.

Remembering these sessions, I knew from the start of this book, that I wanted to set an office romance within the framework of a corporate team building workshop. So, of course, my first task was to find team building workbooks. I managed to get my husband to borrow HR workbooks from the corporate library at his work. (Sometimes, you have to be a tad devious)

Wow – these books were amazing. I found so many activities that deliberately threw people out of their comfort zone and into situations where they needed to trust each other. Perfect! I would never have thought of these ideas on my own.

Somewhere during my reading, I encountered discussions in these books about personality types and soon I moved on to studying Meyers-Briggs personality descriptions, which in turn led me to my serious, introverted, analytical hero, Logan Black – and my extroverted, people-focused, sensitive heroine, Sally Finch.

Now, while I was deep in research mode, I went a step further and found another very useful book about body language and before long, I was actually compiling a file which kept track of all the different types of body language we use to convey different emotions. This way (I hoped) I wouldn’t just fall back on all the old clichés.

Finally, I’d always known that I wanted part of this book to involve my heroine teaching the hero how to dance. I was so tempted by all those lovely touchy-feely possibilities that you can’t avoid when you’re dancing. And then there was all the reversal of power when it’s her teaching him, which is always fun.

Only one problem – I know next to nothing about dancing. So… back to research.

So You Think You Can Dance became compulsory viewing, but I was also lucky to have a daughter who used to dance in a professional contemporary company, so I indulged in that other kind of research… ‘Excuse me… would you mind jotting down a few points?’

It’s actually quite amazing how willing people are to help. OK, so maybe my daughter felt obliged, but I’m currently writing about a vet and I’ve been so appreciative of the generous help that a local veterinary nurse has given me.

So, here’s my point… while many stories may spill onto the page, inspired by little more than our own vivid imaginations, there are just as many times when research can be truly helpful.

Have you had a blind date with knowledge recently? You never know where it will lead and I’d love to hear your stories.

Barbara’s latest release is Harlequin Romance, Blind Date with the Boss. Read an excerpt and find out more on her website.


  1. In between acting jobs I once typed a book up for an author - 'Outdoor Development for Managers' it was called. And I marked Myers Briggs - I'm an INFP btw, but on the cusp between an I and an E.

  2. Barbara -

    Thanks for the great post. I just finished reading Blind Date with the Boss (LOVED IT!!) so it was great to read a little "behind the scenes" info on it.

  3. Loved your post, Barbara.

    The heroine of my upcoming book runs a dolphin tour business. So I grabbed my sister, drove an hour north and booked us on a dolphin boat tour. We had a blast! I learnt so much about dolphins and boats and Port Stephens - you're right, people are really very willing to help.

    Of course I put far too much research into my book and had to cut it back, but it was a great experience.


    P.S. I should love to know the name of the body language book you found - it sounds fab.

  4. I'm sorry I'm late for this, folks. I totally forgot I was here.:)
    Natasha, I'm always fascinated by how many actors are actually introverts, even though they're performing in public. Maybe that's why you're on the cusp??
    I was relieved to know that I was an introvert - and to give myself permission to stay locked in my writing cave.

  5. Nina, I'm so pleased that you enjoyed Blind Date. Thank you!!!!

  6. Oooh -- dolphin tours sound lovely. Readers will love that, Michelle.
    Sorry, the name of that book has vanished from the universe (well, my universe, anyway) I foolishly didn't copy the title and I've searched the library catalogue and can't pin it down.
    But I'll happily email you my notes.

  7. I loved Blind Date With The Boss. Was the dance in your story the old time Viennese Waltz rather than the Modern Ballroom waltz? The Strauss music and the strong, soft , soft seemed like it was.

  8. Gosh, Janet. Seems you know a lot more about waltzing than I do, but yes, I'd say it's the old fashioned kind that I described.
    So glad you enjoyed the book!