Write What You Know by Cathy Perkins
Every author has heard that mantra at least once—and probably a lot more often. Anyone who’s taken a writing class or read a craft book has seen that adage. Whatever the answer, like all writing advice, it’s up to you to take it or leave it.
I hunted around a bit, looking at what different people thought that phrase meant. My favorite response? It doesn’t always mean writing about what you “know.” It means writing about something in a way that’s going to get you to use your best and most troubling material.
It’s emotion. It’s imagination.
What you know shouldn’t limit you on any level.
See why I love research?
When it comes to writing about what you know, there’s also my personal challenge. What I know—my day job—is specialized and very definitely a niche area. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think the entire subject area is scary or complicated or otherwise to be avoided at all costs.
Yes, I’m talking about the M word. Math. And even worse, finance and accounting.
I’ll give you a moment to recover.
When people ask me what I do, I usually offer a vague, “financial industry.” If pressed, I’ll admit I’m an accountant. It’s such a wonderful answer because it covers a whole waterfront of territory. Accountant can mean whatever the questioner wants it to mean. Bookkeeper, tax return preparer, my personal least favorite bean counter, and so on.
Based on a lot of life experience, however, when the Holly Price mystery series began, I knew I had to make Holly an engaging character whose profession happened to be in accounting. She bolted out of her small town after high school, headed for college and the big leagues, away from her family’s local accounting practice. She chased the brass ring to Seattle and a high-flying position with Falcon, handling mega dollar mergers and acquisitions.
When her world was upended (the first book in the series, So About the Money), Holly put her life on pause. She returned to her hometown, not because she messed up and had nowhere else to go, but because her father took off after a mid-life brain fart. Holly stepped in to bail out her mother and the family business—and the employees and clients of that business. Throw in fraud and other financial shenanigans, a murder or two, and rural America’s love of pheasant hunting, monster trucks slo-mo races, and llamas, and you aren’t in Seattle or any other big city any longer. (Yes, I had fun with other things I’ve learned.)
In the latest book in the series, Calling for the Money, Holly has returned to her previous position at Falcon, lured back to manage a billion-dollar transaction. Rather than setting the story in Seattle, Calling for the Money takes place primarily in Los Angeles, specifically Venice Beach. (I was in Venice Beach a good bit recently for the day job and found the transitions occurring in the area intriguing. Travel for business and research—score!)
So, while I still hang that nerdy accountant label around my neck, my favorite comment from a reader (echoed by my editor)—”you’re the only person I know who can make accounting interesting.”
Don’t worry, family and fraud still drive the action in my stories.
No math required.
Calling for the Money
Holly Price has it all—or does she?
Holly worked her way to the top of her field. Now she has the job, the money, the whole package. Behind the scenes, however, she’s wresting with a crushing workload, a backstabbing boss, a ruthless reporter, and the devastating worry she’s made a massive life choice mistake.
Then a friend goes missing and a ruthless gang is … calling for the money.
Holly must confront her past… and define her future.