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Many works of fiction are inspired by real life events, the seed that brings the story life.
Such was the case with the novel, Sudden Turn. Like the heroine, Ginger Martel, I worked for many years as a freelance reporter. Freelancing is a wonderful experience with no shortage of adventures available for the taking. If I could imagine an interesting story, no matter the subject , I’d find the assignment and do it. Since I have a particular interest in law enforcement I was given any number of exciting opportunities … from flying in helicopters, hitching rides on deep sea patrol vessels and participating in training exercises, to rappelling, firing weapons both real and virtual, and doing countless police ride-alongs. Another favourite subject of mine, as it is with most people, is animals. Outside of the usual assortment of amazing domestic animals I recall fondly my close-up experiences with wallabies, emus, ostriches, a tiger and a whole herd of Plains bison. So much fun.
I have also had the enormous pleasure of interviewing hundreds of fascinating people of every age from all walks of life and political stripes. Each and every one had a great story to tell and I loved hearing them. I literally had the time of my life doing that.
And since I already had a full-time job in the legal field when I first began to freelance, before I went at it full-time in 2001, I did most of my interviews during evenings, weekends, personal vacations and public holidays. That was basically the equivalent of working two full-time jobs, but not one single word of complaint, not ever.
And since one of the newspapers I wrote for was a rural publication, I’d often find myself in remote areas, and working evenings I was sometimes searching in the dark for a particularly isolated address. Most of the time I took my own photos, which meant I was travelling alone. You go where the story is, meet people where they are and the more colourful the better. Embrace the quirky with the mainstream. There is a definite high to chasing down a good story. I always felt it; sought it out. There is the unknown in any situation in life; freelancing is no different and that always provided a powerful impetus for me.
So it’s entirely reasonable to assume, considering the aforementioned, that some situations were a bit risky. And it’s probably not surprising I suppose that I eventually found myself in Ginger’s shoes, in an isolated location in the home of a man who refused to let me leave when the interview was over. Of course after a couple of hours I was able to resolve it on my own, thank God, and once I was safely on my way I simply stuffed it away as a not so great experience and moved on. I certainly had no intention of changing the way I was doing things. I also didn’t want to be restricted moving forward and I probably would have been if I’d told anyone about what had happened. I wanted to keep doing what I was doing, the way I was doing it. There are risks with anything in life and plenty of not-so-great experiences, but there’s also more than enough positive to provide counterbalance.
Years passed and it was while taking a Master Class featuring former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, Chris Voss, that an idea for a book began to take root. Chris Voss is an incredibly dynamic individual and I found the subject of high-stakes negotiation fascinating. The class was a complete pleasure for me. Not only was the subject matter compelling, but I could listen to that voice of his all day long, perfectly modulated and highly persuasive. Quintessential cool. As a novelist, I knew I had to do something in that way with what I was learning from Mr. Voss. That’s the moment when the marriage of the two elements actually took place. The first being to draw from the experience I’d had as a freelancer when I’d been held in that man’s home against my will, and the second would be a hostage negotiator brought in to save the day. Perfect!
Before I actually started putting pen to paper though I not only completed that Master Class with Chris Voss, but followed it up by reading books on the subject of hostage negotiation (including that written by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz) and the underpinnings of negotiating in general. Then I felt ready to begin.
And so I started to write Sudden Turn. I well remembered the details of that unfortunate freelancing ordeal, but when I opened that door I hadn’t expected the anxiety of that awful night to come roaring back as though it had happened yesterday, the emotions that were unearthed. Now that I’d decided to relive it for the sake of the book, that whole incident was replayed in my mind in vivid detail. The what if’s. It was now front and centre again because I had unwittingly forced myself to deal with it; realizing with startling clarity how very lucky I’d been to get out of there on my own because it could so easily have gone the other way.
Something that still haunts me about that night was when I asked him: “Will those dogs attack me when I go to my car?” His answer was: “They will if I tell them to. Yes.” I will never forget those chilling words or the look in his eyes that told me he meant what he was saying. But for the grace of God I’d have been in Ginger’s exact position and I would not have wanted to go through what she did.
That incident provided the seed for Sudden Turn, and the story grew and deepened into the total nightmare it could have become in real life had it played out that way.
I wrote the newspaper story at the time with no mention of what took place following that interview, because I didn’t want to deal with it. It was as simple as that. It seemed like a good way to handle it at the time, so that’s what I did. I buried it, but like any truth it will eventually be told and so now it has been, in Sudden Turn.
Interesting inspiration for a story. Glad you could leave that daay. I'm sure the time was scary.ReplyDelete
Yeowza! One scary story--good you kept your cool and got out safely!ReplyDelete
My goodness, Eden. As a former journalist and newspaper editor, I have to wonder... what story were you covering? And what happened to this creep?ReplyDelete