Friday, August 10, 2012

Behind The Scenes Of New York's Finest Rebel

Since New York's Finest Rebel is officially out in the USA and Canada (my last book for the Harlequin Romance line before the launch of KISS), this week I thought I'd talk a little about the thought process for the book and where I found inspiration.

Every author has their own way of approaching a new story and with this one I had a bit of a head start since it was the second in a planned series of four books which revolve around the Brannigan family. Having said that, linked books have to stand alone, so while I knew a little about my hero and heroine (and quite a bit about my hero's family), it wasn't anywhere near enough to start moving a blinking cursor across a blank screen. It was time to go back to the drawing board and get to know my new characters inside, out and as is more-often-than-not the case, I looked at my hero first.

So what did I know about Daniel Brannigan?

Well for starters I knew he was a cop because Olivia, my heroine in The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction, came from an NYPD family and Danny is the youngest of her four brothers. With that in mind, my first task was to immerse myself in all things NYPD-related. 

It's a tough job, folks...

After gathering all the information I could find on the recruitment process, how long it takes to complete the training and the ages/requirements for promotion, I visited Youtube and watched the series of short information films Inside The NYPD which explain the different roles within the department. As a result I decided the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) was the best 'fit' for Danny. It certainly gave me plenty to work with! Take a look at the clip below and you'll see what I mean.

Next I studied TV shows like Blue Bloods, Rookie Blue and the commentary for the movie World Trade Center.  I find commentaries and behind the scenes information particularly useful, especially when they come from people who are doing the job in real life. It's the next best thing to spending time with these real life heroes-not that I wouldn't be open to doing that given the opportunity! Seriously-guys who work in the NYPD and are happy to answer questions?-email me! Since I'm currently playing around with the idea of New York Firefighters for my next WIP, feel free to get in touch if you're in that line of work too :)

Blue Bloods proved to be a great touchstone and one I continue referring to as the series continues when I need to immerse myself in the lives of a fictional NYPD family. Keeping in mind the first book was more than a year in the making thanks to the chaos of my life and a major case of writer's block, I'd like to point out the idea for a family of cops came to me before I saw the show, but at the same time I have to confess a handful of similarities are (unintentionally I hasten to add) undeniable. Take the tradition the Reagan family has for Sunday lunch for example. The Brannigan's do that too (watch the show and you'll have a pretty darn close visual of how I see those lunches in my head), though in fairness maybe that's an Irish thing. I also love how they're all in different areas of law enforcement-something I wanted from the start for the Brannigan brothers.  Yes, they're all blond haired, blue eyed and cops, but while there are certain personality traits they have in common, each one of these gorgeous guys-like their stories-had to be as individual as possible.

The commentary for World Trade Center might seem like an unlikely place to find inspiration for a romance and considering how long it took me to sit down and watch this movie I would have agreed until listening to it. Thing is, if we want to delve deep into the characters we're creating and we've given them a real-life hero's job, I strongly believe we'd be doing those heroes a disservice if we didn't at the very least try to understand how they coped with the worst situation anyone could ever face. Listening to their commentary made me a hundred times more determined to give Danny depth and show respect for the profession I'd given him. Even though 9/11 or the fact the majority of the twenty-three NYPD Officers killed that day were with the ESU doesn't make it into the book, I sincerely hope I've managed to do that.

Mentioning this brings up an important point: The thing about research is not all of the information we gather gets used in the end product. One of my favourite quotes from RWA12 came from the inimitable Nora Roberts, who said 'You don't write what you know, you write what you want to find out.' I think that's so true and the more interested you are in the subject matter, the more realistic you can make your characters. But if I tried to include every little snippet of information from my research it would have weighed the story down. The focus had to remain on the characters.

So once I knew Danny's job and what it entailed, I had to think about the man.  Finding visual inspiration was a must-and keeping in mind I was looking for a blond haired, blue eyed hero, Paul Walker was a perfect fit. Then I had to think about Danny's personality-what kind of codes did he live by-what was he struggling with and why was it so difficult for him? Answering those questions helped flesh out the character and give him substance. Ultimately, as I'm certain is the case with the real life heroes I was inspired by, there's more to him than his job. After all, it isn't his job my heroine falls for, is it?

In the end Danny became one of my favorite hero's and from the feedback I've received it would seem all the hard work was-thankfully!-worthwhile.

New York's Finest Rebel is available from all the usual places and you can read excerpts of it on my website and Tumblr (which I suspect is about to become my new obsession). Next week we'll be talking about Jo, my fun fashionista heroine, and the process for creating her.

If you have any questions about Danny, my process for creating him or have read the book and would like to tell me what you thought, let me know in the comments.

In the meantime I'm VERY HAPPY to say I have a release date for Tyler Brannigan's story in the USA & Canada! Her Man In Manhattan will be my first KISS release and is out in April 2013.  And on that note it's back to the keyboard for me as I fight the good fight with Reid Brannigan to complete the series. As troublesome as they've been I'm gonna miss these guys when they're gone...

Have a great weekend gang!