Under Investigation – Amanda Reynolds
In our Under Investigation piece Amanda Reynolds describes the research she had to undertake for her gripping second novel - LYING TO YOU.
Posted on April 1, 2018 in Guest Author, Under investigation
Tags: Amanda Reynolds, Lying to You, Under Investigation, psychological thriller, research
I knew if I wrote Jess’s and Mark’s story, I needed to get it right. Not only handling the subject matter sensitively, but also how an allegation against a teacher would be dealt with, both at the time, and ten years on when Jess returns to the village where she grew up.
Research for me takes two forms: an initial fact-finding period before I start the book, and then ongoing research, as new issues crop up during the writing process. My research always informs what’s on the page, the facts backing up a scene, but also, as in Mark’s case, there are specific details that are pertinent to his story and need to be correct in the narrative. For instance, although Jess is sixteen at the time of the alleged attack, because she is Mark’s student it is incumbent on him to act appropriately. This was important to understand, both morally and legally, right from the start.
I’m very fortunate to have found a detective sergeant to help me with police matters. His experience handling cases of sexual exploitation meant that his advice has been crucial to every stage of the process. My first meeting with Nigel was at Gloucestershire Police Headquarters, an imposing building, although Nigel made me feel immediately at ease, explaining every step of the process from arrest to prosecution. And then, as if he hadn’t given up enough of his time, he read the whole book to double-check I hadn’t inadvertently twisted the facts. Nigel is helping me with my next book too, and yes, I do know how lucky I am.
The second strand of the book that required some professional expertise was the counselling sessions between Jess and her supervisor. I’d initially thought Jess would be receiving counselling herself for the trauma she’s been through ten years before, but then I decided it would be a fresher approach for her to be training to become a counsellor herself. It’s weird thing in life, particularly when you’re a writer, that so often past experiences prove beneficial, feeding into the creative process. Perhaps it’s not such a coincidence, but whether it’s chicken or egg, I find I often use my own experiences for my characters. The year I spent training as a counsellor, the year I worked as a mentor with troubled teens, and the many years I worked in schools as a teaching assistant have all proved useful research for Lying to You. It’s great to interview people, ask them questions, email and share a coffee, but when you’ve walked along a crowded school corridor, or listened to heart-breaking narratives in mentoring sessions, and role-played counselling session after counselling session to gain a qualification, you have a feel for those worlds.
Works of fiction are not instruction manuals, or history books. They are there to entertain, engage, and to weave a narrative and characters that resonate; but to achieve that, the reader must feel they are in safe hands, and authenticity only attaches itself to a story when the research has been done. Often gut feelings are correct, but I believe it’s up to the author to get the details right, and beyond that, research helps me to write. How else would I know what makes my detective tick, or my teacher nervous, or what Jess might say to her supervisor that will reveal what truly happened that terrible night of the prom?