Research, Research, Research by Rebecca Swartz

AND THE WINNER IS: Sharon Clark!
Thanks, all, for playing. Happy Friday!

Hi, peeps! Today I’ve got Bella Books author Rebecca Swartz in da house.
Her debut novel is Everything Pales in Comparison, a thriller set in the world of country music. Constable Emma Kirby is running a security detail for rising star Daina Buchanan. An explosion and a stalker create mayhem, and when Emma has to put the independent and fiery Daina in protective custody, well, all kinds of sparks fly.

GIVEAWAY!!!! Rebecca has graciously offered up a copy of her debut novel to one lucky reader (could be YOU!), either print or ebook. She’ll even sign the print copy if that’s what you want and ship it on out to you. So if you’d like to be considered in the drawing, leave a comment on this blog. Make sure when you fill out the comment form you include your email address (do NOT include it in the comment body) so we can contact you if you win. We’ll hold the drawing tonight at 10 PM EST (US time). Good luck!

Rebecca is a native Canadian who currently resides in North Carolina with her wife, a graphic designer and artist, and probably that super-cute puppy in the photo, too. She has myriad interests and came to writing a little later in life, but we’re sure glad she did. Find out more about her and her work at her website.

And now, I’ll turn it over to Rebecca. Thanks for coming by!

Research, research, research.

It’s at the heart of many well-written books, regardless of genre. When done right, applied correctly, the story can be seamless. When it’s faulty or sloppy, tripping over an error can jar a reader out of the story, perhaps even cause them to lose faith in an author.

When I began writing my debut novel, Everything Pales in Comparison, in the summer of 1996, I had no idea how much research would be involved. Several pages in, however, it became apparent that in order to make one of my characters, and indeed certain aspects of the storyline, believable, I was going to need some very specific information.

The character in question was Emma Kirby, a Constable with the Winnipeg Police Department. I knew very little about police work, procedures, protocol, etc., other than what I’d seen on various television shows over the years, and I didn’t want to trust that medium’s accuracy. One of my mottos in life is: If you don’t know, ask. So that’s what I did.

Keep in mind this was 1996, when the Internet and email weren’t quite what they are today. People still wrote actual letters to other people. I put pen to paper and wrote to the Chief of Police, explaining who I was, and detailing what I required and why. I received a very prompt response from the Chief directly, stating he’d be happy to help in anyway, and as such, he was assigning one of his officers to be my resource and go-to person. That individual was Constable (3rd Class) Sharon Thomas. I was given her phone number and told to feel free to contact her. So I did.

Constable Thomas became the single most important contact person during the course of writing that first novel. During our initial meeting, I established a very rough outline of the sort of information I required, and let her know it would be an ongoing process, and would she be averse to fairly regular meetings as questions and situations arose within the storyline. She said of course not, whatever I needed, she was there to make sure I got the facts right.

Many of the scenes I wrote out first and then came to her to fact-check. For some of the scenes I asked for clarification first, then wrote it, and came to her to ensure I’d gotten it right. The highest compliments I received from her were that I had very good instincts when it came to police work, that I had a very good eye when it came to people, and solid common sense. Police work, she said, is mainly common sense, there’s nothing magical about it, but some people seem to expect magic and it can be very frustrating. Constable Thomas answered every question I asked, met whenever I needed more, and eventually, as she climbed the promotional ladder over the years, we also communicated via email, where I sent her excerpts for proofing.

That first novel took about ten years to complete. I wasn’t writing full-time, and life got in the way many times before I finished the final two-thirds over 2003 – 2005. By that time, Sharon Thomas was a Sergeant, and due to retire to spend more time with her family. She read the completed work and pronounced the relevant sections sound. And then we were done, and I never saw her again.

This way of researching has been my modus operandi, ranging from speaking with the local police department and various medical personnel with my first novel, to parole officers, juvenile court intake workers, the local police and sheriff’s department, and researching the National Sex Offender Registry for my second novel. What it comes down to is my own motto: If you don’t know, ask. And I do ask, as many questions as I can think of, to as many people as I can access. And every individual I’ve approached has always been more than happy to talk about his or her work and share their experience so that I can get the facts right for my story. And in the end, that’s what I care about most as well, getting the facts right for my story.


Facts, people. Not getting them right can throw a reader out of a story faster than a guy flies through a window in a movie bar fight. Thanks again, Rebecca. And to get in on the drawing for a copy of her debut novel, leave a comment below.

Happy Friday!

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42 comments

  1. I read the ebook and loved it, Rebecca. It would be great to have a signed print copy. Your detailed research is evident and makes your story convincing which adds to the enjoyment when reading it.

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  2. A new author is always fun to discover. I enjoy police stories and it’s good to know it was thoroughly researched. Looking forward to reading it.

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed the eBook. Wanted a sequel, but sadly,that is not to be. Keep up the great work Rebecca! Anxious to read your next novel.

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  4. I would love to have this book. I live in Greensboro, NC so it warms the heart when I see an Author from my home State.

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  5. I already have the book, so can I have the puppy? Congrats on your debut novel, Rebecca. Looking forward to reading more.

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  6. Congratulations Rebecca. So much of your story sounds like mine. I have been working on my book off and on for 20 years. I am determined to finish it in 2014!! I wish you well.

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  7. Ooo La La!!! Sounds like a winner with many of my favorite topics 🙂 Good luck with your writing career…love the puppy 🙂

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  8. Love that you completed such in depth research for your novel! Is that beautiful little bundle of joy on your lap a mini Aussie??? What a doll!! 🙂

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  9. Thanks Rebecca and Andi. I am currently re-reading Everything Pales in Comparison and am loving it just as much as I did the first time around. All the Police work and other informations seems authentic and nothing pulled me from the story so all the research payed off if you ask me.

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