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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cheryl Wyatt on How to research Action Romance

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.

Okay, let’s talk research. How does one research for action romance? That sounds interesting, since action romance is unique. Tell how you get your ideas for the action, for the career choice for the hero and heroine, etc.

On researching action romance and choosing interesting character careers for action romances:

I actually like to find real people who are in those career fields and pick their brains. I found this so hard to do prior to getting contracted because I didn't want to come across as a stalker or something. LOL! Now that I can actually say, "I am a multi-published author" or "I'm researching for a contracted book," it's much easier for me to step out of my comfort zone and ask for assistance.

Thankfully with the release of my third book (Ready-Made Family-IN STORES NOW) in my Wings of Refuge Series from Steeple Hill, which feature a team of U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumpers (PJs for short) people in those fields or related to PJs who have become aware of my books have started contacting me and offering assistance because the books truly honor their career. So they're happy and honored to help.

Other research methods are: Obtaining true/real training manuals from those careers. One of my trademarks as a writer I think is that I love to come up with very unique careers, at least for one of my lead characters. My editors are telling me the Wings of Refuge Series is selling well. And I think that a big reason for that is due to the very unique career of the Pararescue Jumpers that this series highlights.

As far as matching up a heroine to such a strong, Alpha hero, it's kinda nice to have the heroine (or hero if the heroine happens to have the more unique/edgy career) other character to be in a more normal career. That adds to the "opposites attract" angle that I commonly have in my books. Though some of my books do contain both hero and heroine who have very unique and far-from-mundane/cliché careers, most have one “normal” career for one of the lead characters.

Another way I research is through the Internet, but you have to be careful and triple check (at least) anything you find online. Libraries, books and other forms of media are a huge draw for me when I'm researching. I visit forums of the careers I choose for my characters. For over five years now I have been on an F-22 Raptor forum with fighter pilots so I can hear their dialogue and get the terminology right and ask them questions and have them verify my research as best as possible.

I have a really funny story about that but I'll suffice it to say that, after about thirty hours of exhaustive research, I'd finally nailed a certain scene in the book. And the pilots let me know that I was on target and that it was authentic....expect for one thing....They had to remind me that birds don't generally cruise at 30,000 feet. LOL! I'm talking feathery birds, not planes. So though I'd gotten all of the technical stuff down...I'd somehow lost my common sense. Not sure what the moral of that story is...but I laugh every time I think about it.

Cheryl's favorite research and writing spot

It helps to have family members and friends in these career fields too. But if you don’t, visit the communities that they “hang” in and let them know you’re in need of research assistance. BE SURE they are TRULY in that career field, especially if you are writing special forces/special ops. MOST men who are REALLY in those careers won’t tell strangers. Same goes if you’re writing FBI, CIA, snipers, detectives, private investigators and other “undercover” type characters.

Writer’s groups and conferences are a great way to come in contact with professionals who are willing to help writers with research too. ACFW has a list of research professionals in their Member’s Only section with contact information of people in career fields you may have your characters in. Romance Writers of America and ACFW both host workshops by individuals in certain career fields that authors tend to write about a lot, such as law enforcement, military, investigative careers, etc.

I HIGHLY recommend authors to join these writers’ groups and attend conferences or at least purchase the conference CDs to get the teachings. You will be able to use much of what you learn. Also, Discovery channel programs and programs on TV that highlight certain careers in a documentary form are good for getting ideas on unique careers. But be careful of the fictional shows like CSI and medical dramas, etc. Most of those do not accurately portray those careers, though those shows are highly entertaining and some of my favorites, I would never use things I “learn” in a CSI episode to plot a book. LOL!

Best of luck in your research endeavors and in choosing a career for your character that will interest editors and agents, rivet your readers from the first page to the last, and leave them longing for your next book.

My last advice is don’t skimp on research, because your readers in-the-know WILL call you out on your errors. LOL! Yet don’t add EVERY detail either or your readers will be bored to tears and lost in the unfamiliar technical jargon.

The most important thing I want to mention when researching and creating characters with unique careers is to be as honoring as possible to those careers. That way the “real” heroes and heroines out there will be honored by the stories rather than offended. Word of mouth in those communities sell a LOT of books. Or not, depending on how you portray their career.

Ready-Made Family, Wings of Refuge series - In stores now! Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for 1 of 3 copies of Ready-Made Family!

Amelia North needs refuge, and finds it--in Refuge, Illinois. Stranded there after a car wreck, the single mother expects to be cold-shouldered. After all, she’s already been rejected by her parents, her church and her daughter’s father. Instead, she finds a town full of people with open hands and hearts…including pararescue jumper Ben Dillinger.

Ben wants to help Amelia and her daughter find safety and stability. Instead, he finds himself freefalling—right into love with the ready-made family.


  1. Great interview. I'm a fan of Cheryl Wyatt's. She has a fun blog and is so encouraging.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Thanks, Lynn! Your support means so much.

    Ane et all, thanks so much for having me. What an honor! Love your blog.


  3. Yeah, the whole stalker, wanna be writer is tough and you want to get your facts correct, lol.

  4. Hi, Cheryl! Thanks for all the great information on research. I do a lot of historical research which I really enjoy, but I'm a little hesitant about contacting people who could help me! I guess I feel they're too busy to help an unpubbed person!I guess I should anyway.

  5. Hi Cheryl, excellent advice on gathering research. You're a pro! Your books are grounded in research yet you mesh fact and fiction seamlessly in your fast-paced, fabulous stories. Great job!

    I write historicals set in mid to late 1800s. There's no one around to chat with. Thank goodness for historians. :-)


  6. LOL Tina! I have a friend who writes forensic romantic suspense and she walked right into a police station and when they asked her if she needed help/what she needed, she blurted, "Yeah, I was wondering if you could help me know the best place to hide a decomposing body so that no one can find it."

    They just STARED at her. LOL! She was SO nervous to ask for their assistance and taking time from their workday that she FORGOT to mention she needed the info for a fiction novel.

    They all got a huge (relieved!) laugh out of it once they figured out exactly why she needed that info. LOL.

    Cara...thank you so much for coming by. I have found that people are really usually excited to assist with research, whether the author is published or not. For the most part people and experts are so willing to help. I just think it's easier on the author having to ask if they can say the book is actually going to come out. LOL! I remember having a much harder time asking for research help on books that weren't yet contracted.

    But go for it! People really love to help novelists. I used to do instructor interviews for Kiss of Death (mystery/suspense RWA chapter) and they have tons of great research sources in their monthly classes. SO that's an option for mystery/suspense writers.



  7. Janet, LOL about no one being around. SO true. I think historicals are so much harder to research.

    But your books are fabulous and authentic and your research shows.

    Hugs all!
    Cheryl ---laughing because the Captcha looks suspiciously like either elf hunt or elefant...sigh

  8. I love all the details you weave into your work so effortlessly Cheryl. I don't even think I'd notice because your books carry me along with the fast paced story so well. But I do notice because I'm a writer and I know how hard it is to get all those minor details right. They get almost NO SPACE in the book but are the foundation of it.
    So sometimes two hours of research amount to a single sentence or a single paragraph. But it's so important that it's worth it.

  9. LOVE it! Especially your friend and her odd request...can just picture those officers' faces...! Bless her heart. I'd probably do exactly the same. (Fortunately, I have a retired police officer in the family whose brain I can pick, if I ever finish sending him chapters from the novel I submitted to the Daphnes, that is.)

    Please toss my name in the hat! Thanks! Love the Wings of Refuge series!

    hope_chastain at yahoo dot com

  10. Hi Cheryl! Readers "in the know" will call you out, but I like to think that readers "in the dark" can tell when an author takes the time to research. Has to do with the little details that pop in and feel authentic. Might be wrong, of course, but they give the reader a sense that she's learning something new. I enjoy that in stories, and in your stories.

  11. Cheryl, I love that you don't overwhelm your books with detail, even though the detail you use is a mere scraping of what you procure as you research. Too much makes ya' seem like Miss Suzy-Knows-It-All and too little reads like Ms. Oh-I-Couldn't-Be-Bothered-By-A-Little-Thing-Like-RESEARCH....

    Balance is a tough thing in a book and you achieve it seamlessly.

    And yes, please enter me in the drawing for the cruise to Bermuda. I look great in those long shorts!!! As long as they come to the floor, LOL!!!


  12. oh to be/feel rejected by so many and no wheres to turn; how I feel for her. Then comes Ben. I would so love to read this book by this new-to-me author.

  13. Hey Cheryl - because your first 2 books made it to my top 10 list, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the Wings of Refuge series.

    I love the emotion and tension as well as the military aspect of your books.

    Great post. Thanks for the insight and advice.

  14. Great interview, I always learn so much from Cheryl. The Lord has truly given her a gift.

    Milissa Jenkins

  15. Hi Cheryl Thanks for the tips on research. I'm sure your in depth research is why when I read your books, I feel like I'm right there on the scene.

  16. I really enjoyed reading your post...and as a wife of someone who had one of those "specailized" careers I appreciate the usually very accurate research that authors have put into their books.
    Happy writing!


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