DEBORAH CROMBIE: When we were chatting recently about resolving to do things that were out of our comfort zones, I started wondering what we'd been willing to do for the sake of our novels.
Most of my research has been fairly tame, unless you count driving in the UK (which I do count as extremely challenging, most days) or walking around in the less salubrious parts of London, camera in hand. I've done things like tasting whisky in the Scottish Highlands (fun, but not scary,) learning all about narrow boats on the English waterways (but sadly, I didn't get to actually go on one.) I suppose you might count walking down Brick Lane in London's East End after midnight on a Saturday night as wee bit dodgy, but not really terrifying.
But then, there was the rowing episode. Reading about competitive rowing was fun. Watching it--and the rowers--was even more fun. But then I got invited to actually go out on the Thames, at Henley, in a double scull with Olympic gold medalist rower Steve Williams. I blithely said, "Sure!"
And then spent the next two days quaking. I'm not athletic, or coordinated. My only experience in a boat with oars was in a canoe! I wasn't even sure I could get IN the boat without drowning, or worse yet, making a total fool of myself.
But I'm also stubborn, and there was no way I was going to back out. So I showed up for my rowing date with Steve Williams (who is the nicest, most patient guy imaginable, and the best teacher) and I did get in the boat, and I did go out on the river.
And you know what? It was fabulous. Exhilarating. Maybe one of the best experiences of my life. And it sure did make the opening scene of NO MARK UPON HER feel real.
So I'm thinking, yeah, maybe we should push the envelope a little more often. What about you, REDS? What's the scariest thing you've done for research? And would you do it again?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Hmmm, I think the scariest thing I've ever done in my writing career was giving a talk at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Not exactly life-threatening and not exactly what you meant, but I don't really deal in scary. I am totally jealous of your rowing experience though. That sounds like a blast!
DEBS: Hats off to you, Ro. Public speaking probably goes up there with sky-diving for most of us.
RHYS BOWEN: The one time I really pushed the envelope (apart from walking through the not-so-safe parts of New York City) was to agree to be an author-to-the bush in Alaska in winter. When I was in Anchorage for a convention the government decided to fly authors to remote communities to encourage young people there. I don't like small planes and said so. I was flown to Naknek on an eight seater and then to South Naknek, across the frozen river, on a two-seater. How much smaller can you get. I had to climb up an icy wing to enter. The seat belt was broken. It was sleeting heavily. On the way back I felt a little more confident and started taking pictures. "You want a closer look at that?" said the pilot with enthusiasm and dropped the plane alarmingly to within a few feet of the ground.
I also went ice fishing, dog sledding, snowmobiling. All were amazing experiences and I'm so glad I said YES.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh Rhys, I went to the Bush in Alaska too. Only it wasn't really the bush...it was Homer, Alaska, and Lori Avocato and I stayed in a little bed and breakfast. A lovely experience meeting wonderful people, but I've always kind of wished I checked the boxes for small planes, sleeping on floors, eating whale, and pooping in a bucket...
My scariest experience for research? Playing with two real live professional women golfers in a tournament. I was terrified. But they were amazing, and like with your rowing Debs, I never could have gotten the details by standing on the sidelines.
HALLIE EPHRON: Rowing with a gold medalist. Flying to Back of Beyond Alaska. I have lived a very tame life by comparison. I once toured a brain bank. Another time I got into an MRI machine to see what a brain scan would be like. I test drove a GEM electric car -- though it never made it into the book. Toured a prison. None of it death defying.
DEBS: Lucy, I'd have been terrified. At least I wasn't competing, only hoping to stay afloat. Rhys AND Lucy, I so wanted to go to that Bouchercon in Alaska. We were going to make a family vacation of it, but the dates turned out to be too late for everything we wanted to do. I think my idea of adventure would have been closer to Lucy's, however. Rhys, I think you get the bravery gold medal here.
But Hallie, I confess, I'm claustrophobic, and might rather go up in a small plane than be stuck in an MRI scanner.
What about you, readers? What have you done for your jobs that pushed your limits, and would you do it again? I'm going to give away a signed hardcover of NO MARK UPON HER to one of our commenters today, just because we think you all are pretty terrific.
P.S. And the winner of David Corbett's THE ART OF CHARACTER is Terri Herman-Ponce! Terri, if you'll email me your mailing address at deb at deborahcrombie dot com, I'll pass it along to David. Congrats!
And just for