This week I watched ‘Top Gear’ for the first time. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a group of three rather hot headed, out spoken chaps who talk and review cars. Now, I know nothing about cars – the only appeal for me is that my chugga boom gets me around without breaking. If you bought a new car, I’d probably ask you the colour then quickly lose interest. But there is a section in my new book that demanded some background knowledge, so I watched a couple of full episodes before ploughing through YouTube snippets until my appetite was sated. I’ll admit to a mild fascination in some places and a couple of belly laughs, but have to apologise to all car enthusiasts out there; I don’t think I’ll be a convert.

It’s interesting what directions book research takes. For An Unfamiliar Murder fire, research led me to a wonderful meeting with the former Chief of Northants Fire Service who explained how the structure of our old terraced properties work in the UK, the role of accelerants, and their fire procedures. It only converted to a couple of lines in the novel, but was fascinating all the same.

Recently, I met up with a former Detective Superintendent, who managed murder squads all over the UK during his 30 year career. I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is a man who has held one of the most demanding, responsible and challenging jobs in the police service, managed hostage negotiations, kidnap cases, homicides…

The man who joined me in Costa’s for a latte can only be described as a gentle, quietly spoken character. However, as the conversation progressed, I could see the passion for the job behind his eyes, the thrill of the chase, the elation when they catch their villain. The hours worked are impressive, the pressure immense – a wrong decision, a case handled badly, and he not only risks his own reputation, but the wider force and the police nationally. Boy, he had some interesting tales to tell…

I’ve always been a huge fan of studying, a perennial student, taking many courses over the years, just for the hell of it. As a newbie, I’ve found the role of research in writing fiction invaluable; I’d never claim to be factually correct, but a little background information does help to get those words flowing. Sometimes, it’s just for a line, occasionally I have to change tack and edit it out, but it’s all in the thrill of the ride.

Jane Isaac’s first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, is out on, and Kindle worldwide now. Jane is still very much a Newbie and with a day job, a family and a very demanding black Labrador, she squeezes her writing into every spare moment she gets. You can catch up with her at



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  • tmycann
    Posted on April 9, 2012 at 6:10 am

    I feel your pain! For my first novel, all of a sudden I had to know about Russian military helicopters. Luckily, Wikipedia filled my needs admirably, and I already had several years of life experience in Russia to know the space… I’m a little worried about the next two in the series though; it’s unlikely I’ll be visiting China or North Korea for in-person experience to write from–and I wonder how that will impact my story’s veracity.

  • JaneIsaac
    Posted on April 9, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Hey Tonya! Thanks for stopping by. Wow! I should be thankful my research is close to home. Thank goodness for the internet, LOL

  • EditorProofer
    Posted on April 9, 2012 at 6:48 am

    When reading, I used to rush through the acknowledgements section until I realised just how much research and advice is actually involved. Those people who help us continue the story do indeed deserve credit!

    Good on you for doing the work rather than just guessing at it – which you can tell is what a lot of newbies do.

  • JaneIsaac
    Posted on April 9, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Thanks Emma, although it is rather a labour of love. I probably devote too much time to it:)

  • Ciara Ballintyne
    Posted on April 9, 2012 at 8:33 am

    I have zero interest in cars, but I do enjoy Top Gear, if only for a laugh. But you’ve made me grateful I rarely need to do any research. The last research I did was on atemi points – the points on the body when, if struck with appropriate force, kill or maim. Don’t ask….

  • JaneIsaac
    Posted on April 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Ciara! Thanks for your comment. Atemi points? I’m off to Google that, LOL.

  • Jennifer Sosniak
    Posted on April 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Very cool! I’ve always heard that you should write what you know but I love doing research and putting a little bit of what I’ve learned in my writing. It’s fun for me. 🙂

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on April 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks Jennifer! Couldn’t agree more:)

  • Jackie Buxton
    Posted on April 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Nice post, Jane. Sorry you had to endure Top Gear all in the aid of research… OK, the guys can be mildly amusing in their toil but really, I like to think I’m a bit too busy to be watching boys playing with toys. The rest of my family love it, groan, so I do catch the end sometimes but am told to leave the room when I start talking about ‘all that expense’ and ‘cost to the environment’ of their antics. Each to their own, I know.
    Anyway, back to the point, your research sounds great fun! I had to do a lot of research into coma which involved reading and meeting people who’d suffered or cared for someone in a coma. It was absolutely fascinating and made me wish I’d concentrated more on Biology at school.

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on April 11, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Jackie. Your research sounds fascinating. I’m tempted to go look!

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