Writing stories isn’t always about sitting in a room, striking keys in solitude. Recently, I jumped at the chance to meet with Deputy Chief of the Portland Police Department, Joseph Loughlin to talk about police procedure for my current novel project. (This is one of the benefits of going to conferences, by the way. I would never have gotten time with a man as busy as Chief Loughlin had I not met Kate Flora at the New England Crime Writers’ Conference, who co-wrote the book Finding Amy with him.) I expected little more than a short question and answer session between meetings. What I got was one of the most interesting and informative research sessions I’ve ever had. Chief Loughlin is friendly and charismatic with a vast amount of experience to share. Not only did he answer all of my questions, he helped me think of ways around some of the roadblocks police procedure posed for my characters. He also gave me a comprehensive tour of the police station including the new regional crime lab just being completed.
I learned from the meeting that parts of the story I put a lot of time and effort into will have to be tossed out and redone. I also know that once that’s finished, the story will ring truer, and the reader will find far more texture to dive into.
The meeting was much more than just jotting down a few details for the story. The real experience was meeting a great guy who is passionate about what he does and who was willing to open a door to a world that is very different from the world I wake up and inhabit every day. Sitting down at a lonely desk to write each day can seem dull or frustrating at times, but moments like these remind me why being a writer may be the best job in the world.