Romance author Marie Force discusses how she conducts research for her romantic suspense series, "Fatal," including how her friends in law enforcement help ensure accuracy.
My husband and I are endlessly entertained by the questions we get about how I go about researching the love scenes in my romances. There’s no shortage of elbow nudges, winks or inappropriately suggestive comments to go around. We just roll our eyes and laugh. I find it particularly amusing that no one ever asks me how I research my murder mysteries. I guess it’s safe to say there’s less interest in murder. Fortunately, I offer plenty of both in my Fatal series, the story of Sam and Nick, a Washington, D.C. homicide detective and her U.S. Senator husband.
Since I’ve never actually committed a murder, nor have I ever contemplated such a thing (even with teenagers in my house), how does one go about putting herself into the mind of a murderer? It’s not as difficult as you might think. I’ve long been interested in true crime stories, often following cases from commission through prosecution. Keeping up with the news is one of the best research tools for an author who writes romantic suspense, murder mysteries or thrillers. Like the writers of T.V. shows such as Law & Order, I find a lot of story inspiration in the headlines.
In the next installment of the Fatal series, releasing on March 24, Lt. Sam Holland’s teenage niece will experience a violent crime that leaves her drugged, covered in blood that’s not all hers and confused about what really happened over the course of one mysterious evening. Images from the night in question will begin to appear on social media, which will further add to her uncertainty about her role in what turns out to be murder. In researching this new book, I’ve followed several recent high-profile cases in that included social media fueling crimes involving teenagers. As the mother of an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old, these issues are ever present on my mind as my kids navigate the digital age where a single image can ruin a promising life.
I also rely heavily on friends who are police officers and always willing to offer information about how they go about investigating certain crimes. I’ve learned a lot about investigative techniques, routine procedures and good old-fashioned detective work through my association with them. One of them, a detective captain with a nearby city police department, reads all the Fatal books before I turn them in to ensure accuracy. I refer to him as my law enforcement security blanket with this series, and I’m extremely thankful for his participation.
In our society there’s no shortage of material to draw from in coming up with plots for romantic suspense novels that include crime, passion and politics in every installment. While I wish there were fewer crime stories to draw from, crime and murder are realities we’re forced to live with. Giving such dark subjects a fictional twist that keeps them entertaining to readers is a challenge I find constantly rewarding.