By the time I was ready to write the second half of Meeting Murder, I’d been out of the meeting planning industry for several years. No business travel. No fancy hotels. And I had only the vaguest memory of my chosen setting.
Clearly, a research trip was indicated.
Now before you start thinking that jetting to Miami Beach to do research for a book was glamorous, let me share a few things:
1) It was August – not exactly prime tourist time. The brutal heat was relieved only by the biblical downpours (with hurricane season only weeks away, the weather was volatile to say the least.)
2) I had no “status.” Not as a meeting planner, not as an author. In order to gain access to the places I needed to see, I was forced to – shall we say – “pretend.” The fact that the hotel I’d chosen to “case” had been the scene of a highly publicized real-life murder (of all things) just months before made my task even more difficult. No one wanted to talk – especially not to a writer. I did get a few answers though, and took a few surreptitious snapshots that served as definite inspiration once I returned home.
3) I was “between jobs” (translation: unemployed). Unlike the well-fed, cosseted drug reps and executives in my book, I made my trip as cheap as possible (hence Miami in August). And there was no time for lolling on the beach either – I didn’t even pack a bathing suit! Rather, I stayed in my ratty motel room and filled pages with notes, emerging only for “reconnaissance missions” which sparked more pages of notes…
In the end, though, I got the information I needeed – everything from the recollection of how cold it gets on planes to the names of streets in Miami. And I had one truly lucky break – a gentleman from the Miami Beach Film and Production Office took me on a guided tour of the town and gave me incredibly valuable insight (much of which appears in the book).
My characters and plot may be imaginary, but the details I got from that trip were real – and irreplaceable.
I am, however, thinking of setting my next book in Tahiti!