Thursday, May 30, 2019 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Putting the Facts in Fiction

The Write Way Café welcomes Tracy Solheim, an intrepid researcher who appreciates the value of in-person research.

People seem to think the best thing about being an author is that we writers get to sit around in our pajamas all day as we create. While definitely a perk of the profession, most of us do get dressed every day. In my case, mainly because I’d fall asleep at my desk if I didn’t!

What’s really the best part of being a writer in my opinion? The research. Okay, I hear some authors and even readers groaning out there, but nothing makes fiction more authentic than getting the facts right. And that means not only surfing the web but getting your hands dirty, too. Kicking a few tires and walking in a character’s shoes. I call it the “Walter Mitty Component” of the job. Definitely more fun than wrestling a plot into submission.

Whether it’s interviewing an NFL placekicker or trailing a wedding photographer around for a weekend, I try to invest the time it takes to get down to the nitty-gritty of my characters’ actions and motivations. My Second Chances series is based in a historic B and B on the coast of North Carolina. The fictional inn is a compilation of several inns I’ve stayed in up and down the East Coast, right down to the tigerwood molding from a B and B in Asheville.

But when it came down to writing my current romantic suspense novels, I really had to up my research game. The series centers around an unbreakable bond of brotherhood binding together three West Point classmates who, after serving in the Army, now work for the U. S. Secret Service. The trio of special agents, dubbed the Heartthrob, the Brain, and the Enforcer, are devoted to their demanding jobs, thriving on the daily pressure and adrenaline. They work hard and play even harder in the Capitol Hill townhouse they share. All three vow to remain bachelors, knowing long-term relationships are not conducive to a career in the Secret Service. Or so they think!

Having lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for many years, I was familiar with the monuments, the Metro, and the restaurants my characters visit. I’ve also been inside the White House a time or two—just not the residence or the pastry kitchen tucked away on a mezzanine floor. Fortunately for all of us, the lovely folks at the White House Museum host an amazing interactive website. And yes, I used my author powers to make my heroine a pastry chef because I wanted to spend two weeks hanging out in the pastry kitchen of my local country club. My baked goods weren’t as pretty as the chef’s—not even close—but I can say I did my part taste-testing for quality.

The action scenes necessary to make the series suspenseful were a different story altogether. I’d never handled a gun much less fired one. My heroine needed to kill one of her assailants to protect a Secret Service agent—a bit of a role reversal plot twist, I know. To get a feel of what it would be like to shoot a gun for the first time, I toddled off to Writer’s Police Academy, a conference offering an interactive, hands-on experience for writers to learn all aspects of homicide investigation and forensics. There, law enforcement professionals instructed other attendees and me in the proper handling of a Glock. The experience was invaluable when trying to describe how my character would feel the first time firing a gun.

One of the other characters in the series is a zoologist who works with elephants. Of course, that meant I had to get up close and personal with pachyderms, too. Thanks to the wonderful Friends of the National Zoo, not only was I able to make sure I had the layout for the elephant trails exhibit correct, I was able to handle the elephant poop. Yeah, they weren’t letting me get THAT close to the elephants, but it was a day I’ll always remember, that’s for sure!

Tell me authors, what fun/crazy things have you done to research your books?

Here's a peek at SHOT IN THE DARK (Tule Publishing), book 2 in the series:

by Tracy Solheim
If there’s anything zoologist Josslyn Adams abhors more than guns, its poachers. She’s made it her life’s mission to eliminate the animal thieves from existence. But when an African “fact-finding” mission with a wildlife conservationist group results in one of their members being shot, the entire team must escape for their lives through the jungle. In order to obtain sanctuary from the local government, Josslyn calls in a favor from her older half-sister, the First Lady of the United States.

After suffering a serious concussion in the line of duty, Adam Lockett, commander of the Secret Service’s elite team of snipers, is forced to work on a boring protective detail. Making matters worse, he’s assigned to guard the First Lady’s wild-child younger sister, a woman hell bent on ditching her detail every opportunity she gets. Still, Adam is determined to bide his time until he is cleared by the doctors to return to the job he’s best at, even if the tree-hugging pacifist with the smoky eyes makes his job difficult.

Josslyn is back in Washington D.C. hot on the trail of a major importer of illegal animal products. The last thing she needs is a gun-toting, tower of testosterone dogging her every move. But when the poachers discover who is on to them, it’s suddenly Josslyn’s skin that needs saving. As the chase heats up, so does the passion between the two. Can these two opposites find happiness? Or is it just a shot in the dark?

Grab your copy at any of these fine retailers:

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About Tracy: After years of writing reports and testimony for Congress, Tracy Solheim decided to put her creative talents to better use. She’s the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary sports romance, romantic suspense, and small-town women’s fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s practicing her curling—bottles of wine, that is. She’s been known to cook dinner, but no more than two nights in a row. Most days, she’d rather be reading, which to her is just necessary research. She lives in the suburb of Atlanta with her husband and a neurotic Labrador retriever. Her two adult children visit, but not often enough. (See the note above about cooking.) Check out what she’s up to next at Connect with her on Facebook at or on Twitter at Follow her on BookBub at


HiDee said...

You've had some really cool experiences. Thank you for sharing with us today, and inspiring me to be more adventurous with my research!

Lynn said...

I admire your research tactics. It really can make a difference in the novel. Thanks for being on our blog and sharing!

RT Wolfe said...

And, in person research is such an amazing experience! Best wishes!
-R.T. Wolfe