We’re absolutely thrilled to have the talented Andrea Kane here at Murder She Writes! Please give her a warm welcome! (Cheers!) ~ Allison
Consulting with the FBI is one of the most fascinating parts of my writing research. I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible professionals who come to the Bureau from just about every field, experts who seem to know everything about everything, and patient teachers who join me during my multi-layered research process. I’ve been doing this for many years now and through many books, the latest of which is THE STRANGER YOU KNOW (the third installment of my Forensic Instincts series). And I’ll keep right on doing it—learning new departments and their missions, their experiences, their knowledge base—for as long as they give me the honor of doing so.
Sounds daunting? It is. Sounds impressive? It’s that, too. Do I rise to the occasion? I hope so, yes. Am I always the consummate professional… well, most of the time. But there are those times when I say something that makes me want to duct-tape my mouth.
One of my favorite examples of this “oops syndrome” is when I learned how to shoot a Glock. Now, mind you, I’d never held a gun in my life, much less one with real bullets. So I was nervous enough to begin with. It was pouring rain out, so I had a “waterproof” jacket and eye protection on. Well, I was waterlogged and my glasses were fogged by the time I even began. Not the best circumstances to learn in. But I staunchly marched into Fort Dix along with my FBI escorts, was introduced to the Principal Firearms Instructor (PFI) and all the other specialists who’d be working with me, and suited up. (You can see a photo of me, prior to putting on my rain gear, while I was prepping for that first firearms training session.
Anyway, before I went out and braved the elements, the whole group of us stood around a rustic table with a metal roof over our heads at the firing range, where I would see and load the Glock 23 I’d be shooting. As usual, I was burning with questions. I’d already perfected the art of NOT blurting out question after question, but asking them in a controlled manner. Special Agents are steady and low-key, and I’ve learned to respect that by trying to be the same. But there was one question that was driving me crazy.
I always need to be able to fully visualize something in order to write it into my book. Having watched countless suspense/thriller TV shows and movies, and having heard the terms “clip” and “magazine” used dozens of times, I wanted to actually see what one looked like (not when it was already being snapped into the gun, but all by its loneseome), and to find out exactly how it was loaded. So I asked the PFI if he’d show me. He agreed, no problem. The group stood by while he showed me the small plastic rectangular case that would house the bullets. He then went on to patiently show me how the magazine is loaded. It takes 13 bullets, he told me, and each one has to be slid down vertically until it’s in place, after which you press it down into a horizontal position. So it’s slide and press, slide and press, each bullet ultimately lying on top of the others. The 13th bullet, he explained, is VERY difficult to wedge in, so it takes a lot of strength.
He turned over the empty magazine and ammo to me, and urged me to give it a try. I did it very intently and very precisely—and very successfully, up until the end. I could NOT get that last bullet in, no matter how hard I tried. Finally, with a lot of help, I managed to finish the task.
I didn’t think. I didn’t censor my words. I just blurted out, “I get it! It’s just like a PEZ® dispenser!”
There was a moment of dead silence. Then everyone in the room burst out laughing. I wanted the floor to swallow me up. How could I have said such a stupid and childish thing about such a sober process?
A minute later, when the laughter had died down, the PFI pursed his lips, looked at me, and said, “You know, you’re right. I never thought of it that way.” All the other agents agreed.
To say I felt better would be a gross understatement. But, best of all, my readers who’ve heard me tell this story say they can now perfectly visualize the magazine and the process of loading it. I hope that’s how you feel after reading this post.
Oh, and, by the way, I did a pretty impressive job at the firing range— after lots of practice and lots of “target—what target?” shots. I brought my first target home as a souvenir, and it had a healthy bunch of holes in it.
Enjoy THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, and take note of how the Forensic Instincts team capitalizes on what I learned. The only difference is, I’m just the depicter. They’re the pros!
So what about you? Share your “oops!” moment with all of us!