Writing, reading and career itches

This last weekend, I read an ARC (advanced review copy) of Pamela Beason’s soon-to-be released book, Endangered (due to hit the shelves in December 2011). The story is about a wildlife biologist who is camping in the Utah backcountry in order to get stories for her new job as a wilderness journalist for an online magazine. A young child goes missing from a campground there and she is one of the last to see him, so she feels responsible and becomes involved in the search for the little boy. While the story is a mystery full of nail-biting suspense and tons of wonderful action and adventure, we get a taste of what it is like to be a wildlife biologist—enough to make me daydream about being one myself.

The way this book made me want to explore a different career reminded me of when I first watched Indiana Jones (the first one) and had this fierce desire to become an archaeologist. While I came to learn that this archaeology itch of mine was only something that needed to be periodically scratched, not something to spend years studying for and following, I love how fiction allows me to step out of my own writing shoes for a bit and try a different career on for size.

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie that gave you the new-career itch?

I also love how writing fiction allows me to explore a new career, if only in my head. One of the books I wrote years ago has a heroine who is an archaeologist who runs a dig in the Yucatan. Was this story partly inspired by Indiana Jones? You betcha! And I had a fun time researching it and living vicariously through my characters as I wrote it. I plan to revisit that book again in the future and tweak it slightly to fit in as the first book in another mystery series that ties into my Deadwood Mystery series. I’m excited to “dig” back in and play archaeologist again (although the heat down there in the Yucatan makes me woozy some days—ha!).

If you’re an author, what is the most entertaining career you’ve researched?

Pamela Beason’s bio says she’s a private investigator, not a wildlife biologist. In her book, I could have easily believed she was a wildlife biologist. I have had several fans of my Deadwood Mystery series email me to ask me how long I’ve been a Realtor (the heroine in that series is a Realtor). The answer: I’ve never been a Realtor. I’ve never even worked in a realty office. But it makes me smile wide when I get that question, because I know I’ve done a good job of convincing my readers otherwise, and that they were able to fall into the story and believe Violet Parker really is a Realtor.

Have you ever read a book where the author did such a great job with the character’s careers that you were convinced the author must have experience in that field? What about a book where it was obvious the author didn’t do enough research?

Thank you for any thoughts or comments you have on writing and careers!

Ann Charles


13 responses to “Writing, reading and career itches

  1. Are you sure you’re not a Realtor??? I suppose you don’t have any purple boots, either.

  2. Love this post! Let’s see, as far as heroes AND heroines go, I’ve been a PI, a rookie FBI agent, an actor, a nutritionist, an NFL football player, a journalist, a professor, a knight, and a peasant woman. I like to use the Idiot’s Guide to ____ [fill in the blank] for my careers and then go from there. After reading the Nutrition book I learned everything I could ever need to know about triglyceride levels. No wonder I love this writing gig so much. How many people get to change their careers on a regular basis?

    Sounds like I definitely need to put Endangered on my list of books to read.


    • “I like to use the Idiot’s Guide to ____ [fill in the blank] for my careers”

      Never even considered that source. What a stroke of genius, Theresa! You may have just helped write my next book.

      Thank you.

    • Theresa, great idea on using an Idiot’s Guide for careers! I’m going to have to start doing that. Thank you for the tip! I love the double bonus with the Nutrition book, too. Ha!

      I love Endangered. It had so much action and scenery in it. I love Utah back country, and this book put me right in the middle of it.

      Thanks, Ann

  3. “I plan to revisit that book again in the future and tweak it slightly to fit in as the first book in another mystery series that ties into my Deadwood Mystery series.”

    Sounds green to me. After spending all that time, it would be a shame to waste it if you can use it.

    As for exploring other careers, until my latest work, I wrote fantasy and don’t think exploring the life of a prince or a hunter counts. *grin* My most recent effort was a thriller and I spent a great deal of time in the mind of a foreign correspondent. I enjoyed it very much. I also spent a great deal of time, however, in the head of a terrorist, but don’t consider that an acceptable career. *bigger grin*

    • Oh, a foreign correspondent–fun! The terrorist part: not so much fun. 🙂 I guess you can daydream about the prince bit, but it’s not as suspenseful probably as your thriller cast. Being a writer is a blast! Thanks, Raymond. 🙂


  4. Wow, Ann, THANKS! I had no idea you were going to mention me, and of course I’ve been lost in my writer’s fog, so I’m late to the party, as usual. I’m not a wildlife biologist by formal training, but I wish I’d studied that. I’ve always been fascinated by wilderness and animals in general, but especially the wild ones. I go hiking and kayaking and scuba diving whenever I can, and I’m always looking for wild critters. I count it a very good day when I see one. Yesterday, I was out riding my bike and looking for owls, but I spotted an osprey instead. And a little weasel of some sort on shore when I was out kayaking a couple of days ago.

    Folks will have to wait until December to read about the cougars in ENDANGERED, but if they have ereaders and are interested in how intelligent gorillas are, they might want to check out my latest suspense ebook, THE ONLY WITNESS in the ebookstores. This is why I love fiction–writers can go wherever they want to go and be whoever they want to be! I was a teensy bit worried about Raymond above, but then I remembered that I too ‘posed’ as a terrorist in the sequel to ENDANGERED. Ack! Guess we all have those characters within us.

    Love your series, Ann! See ya in the Wild West!


    • Pam, thank you for stopping in and filling us in on your background and what you have coming soon. I can’t wait to read the sequel to endangered to see how you did in the mind of a terrorist. I wish I was half as adventurous as you are!

  5. I love to write about characters who are artists, singers, songwriters, musicians. I’m drawn to those careers for my characters because I’d love to do it. I do research, and I’m usually lucky to have friends who can advise me.

    • Write what you love, right Edie? Fun that you have friends in the business to help and enjoy the careers with / through. Makes me look forward to reading your books. 🙂

  6. As a child, I wrote (and illustrated) a book (one of those little theme books with the hard blue cover) about a little girl who went into space. One whole chapter (about 100 words, less than even James Patterson’s average chapter) was devoted to how much room it would take to store enough food for the journey. I seem to remember that I was transporting a whole grocery store with me (remember, this was in the late 1950’s and nobody had ever BEEN in space – except possibly a dog or monkey). If I were ever to try again to write a book, it certainly would NOT be related in any way to MY “careers”. Nearly thirty years in mortgage banking compliance, followed by seven years at a company that produces mortgage software would inspire only a never-published book about a job-related nervous breakdown (perhaps the setting could be a padded room).

    My retirement avocation – as you know, I am currently Tsar of the Ann Charles Fan Club (due to there being little market for a Princess-switched-at-birth) – would probably not “a good career make” for a protagonist.

    However, I once felt fully qualified to do an appendectomy after touring an exhibit at the University of Nebraska. So, Ann, I generally don’t imagine the author having to “be” the character, but I happen to know that if the author wants a pair of purple cowboy boots badly enough, she will write about them enough to convince her family and friends that she MUST have them, and voila, it will happen. So, if you write often enough about archaeology, Mr. Biddles and the children will have to get used to seeing you with sand in your boots.

    • Jody, you made me laugh out loud about my gorgeous boots. (my family and friends are so wonderful–including my tsar) an appendectomy, huh? Good to know. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this 🙂 !

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