Paula’s new heroine is a ballet dancer.
Write what you know, “they” say. So sometimes I despair of
myself. I’ve had heroes who are archaeologists, veterinarians, undercover cops,
and even a volcano expert. All of which required lengthy research (especially
about volcanoes!). Each time I’ve wondered why I didn’t choose occupations for
my characters that I already knew something about.
In IRISH DECEPTIONS, my current ‘work in progress’, my heroine is a ballet
dancer. What do I know about ballet? In a word, nothing. I never had ballet
lessons as a child (or indeed any dancing lessons), and I’ve never even watched
a ballet on the stage, apart from a few scenes in musical shows.
So why did I choose this occupation for my heroine?
The answer to that is for a purely practical reason. I
needed my heroine’s career to be cut short by a car accident that badly injured
her knee. Not enough to disable her seriously, but enough to end her
professional career. Okay, so she could have been an athlete of
some kind e.g. a gymnast, or swimmer, or tennis player – but at the same time,
I needed her occupation to be something that would bring her to the Mist Na
Mara Arts Centre in Ireland (which has featured in all my Irish novels), so
dancing seemed to be the obvious choice.
Could she still teach dancing even if she was unable to
perform? Preliminary research showed that this was a career transition made by
many dancers, even after injury may have halted their performing careers. So
far, so good.
Then came the finer details. Yes, I know the names of the
famous ballets, I even know what ‘up to 5th’ means (not sure how I know that!)
– but the more complex movements in ballet? Not a clue! Google and YouTube
proved useful, of course, but I needed some reassurance that I had got things
right. And in this situation, it was not a case of ‘write what you know’ but rather
‘find someone who knows about what you want to write’. Fortunately I didn’t
have to look very far, as I remembered a friend’s daughter has been a dance
teacher for about 20 years. As a result, she and I have had several phone
conversations, and even more email conversations. She is so excited about my
heroine being a ballet dancer, and hopefully, with her help, I will get my
facts and ballet terminology right.