One of the things I most enjoy about being a writer is the variety. Not only do I have variety from topic to topic, or even from fiction to non-fiction, but I also write very different genres of fiction. Yesterday morning I posted a new chapter in my erotica serial, which you can get here. In the afternoon I wrote my blog on the potentially hopeful situation facing my sick ferret. Now this morning I was quite literally flipping back and forth between erotica and putrefaction. My novel has a serial killer in it, so there are bodies a'plenty, and sometimes those bodies aren't quite fresh.
Most people would be freaked out by this kind of thing, or at least a little bit confused. Not me. I kind of thrive on it. Not in a particularly sick way or anything. I just happen to be attention-deficit, so I need constant change in my life, and writing happens to be ideal for me. The sheer research involved in being able to write convincingly about serial killer situations is enough to keep a person mentally occupied for a very long time, and no one can say the topic is boring.
Most of my research was actually completed a long time ago when it comes to my novel. I've done a lot since then, but mostly because the topic is such a big interest for me. This delay in writing my book allowed me to truly absorb what I learned, though. It's like the difference between a newly minted psychiatrist and one who has a bit of experience treating patients. Seasoning helps.
Don't get me wrong. I got lots of great information right from the start of my research. Many years ago I spoke with one of the professors that worked at the 'body farm' at the University of Tennessee, learning about decomposition and putrefaction, the rates at which a body starts to smell, and some fascinating research they were doing on the odours emitted from cadavers as they decayed. It had a lot to do with how cadaver dogs are able to detect human remains, and they were working on developing their own detectors. It was truly fascinating stuff to me.
I honestly don't know how the researchers work with the actual bodies, however, or the cops that are called out to some of the nastiest scenes imaginable. I've known more than one cop, and I've always been amazed at their ability to handle the smells associated with death, when I can't even handle cat vomit. The host of the WebTV show I produce, who's also a friend, is a former cop who saw more than his fair share, and it blows me away that he did what he did. I can only think that there are just some things that get inside you and that you never get rid of. If I was the type to succumb to hero-worship, certain cops would be at the top of my list.
That's one thing I'm very careful about with my research. I don't allow it to touch me where I live if that makes any sense. I've watched autopsy footage, sure, but I've never watched videos of anyone actually being killed. I've never spoken to a serial killer, that I know of, and never intend to. I've done all the background research it's possible to do, but it was based on case studies and encyclopedias, as well as research papers. I haven't exchanged any letters with a prison pen-pal. In fact, I actually wrote an article on that subject at one time, which you can read here. I do not want to open up my life to a serial killer.
At one time, I thought it might be a good idea to watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. It's widely available on the internet, and I found it with ease. I was about to click on the link to go to it, but at the last second I decided I didn't want to. Why? Well, some part of me told me that it would change me in some fundamental way. I've seen people die, but I've never watched a person be killed. Actively seeking out that visual means something, and I just didn't want to be that person. It would be different if I saw it happen through no efforts of my own. Becoming that kind of voyeur just did not appeal to me, and I knew it would say something to me about the kind of person I am.
When it comes to serial killers, the last thing I ever want is to be on the immediate radar of one of them. I've been on the radar of a stalker, and that was closer than I ever wanted to be to that kind of fixation. Meeting with a serial killer, or even exchanging letters, would mean that they knew I existed, and they had a personal connection to me. Even writing fiction about serial killers, if a reader gets fixated on my work they don't actually know me as a person. Granted, that doesn't mean some nutbag won't decide that they do know me. Their minds are different after all. I'm a writer, though. It's what I do, and I wouldn't let those kinds of fears stop me from doing it. I just know that it's unnecessary to have personal contact with a serial killer to get the information I need to write a credible story, so why risk it?
All in all, living the life of a writer is a blessing to me. I love the ever-changing nature of it. I love that every single thing I do may be fodder for something I'm working on. I love that going out in the wee hours this morning (so that I could buy a new router), I felt absolutely exhilarated with my life. I had my headphones on, listening to my mp3 player, which has mostly Adam Lambert on it right now, and I was dancing at the bus stop. Yup. Dancing. Not real crazy-ass dancing where I was using the bus stop pole and stripping off my clothes or anything, but dancing nonetheless. I didn't care that cars were passing me, and people walking their dogs. I felt free. Happy. Madly in love with my life.