Author: The Chameleon Profession

One of my favorite things about writing is that it allows me to dabble in any profession I choose. Even as a journalist, I had the opportunity to peek into the world of other people whether they were doctors, teachers, quilters. It didn’t matter because every day I spoke with new people and had the opportunity to learn about their careers and their lives.

Now when I write, the characters are fictitious, but I still get to learn about their world and about their jobs, which is endlessly fascinating to me. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and in school, there weren’t many subjects that didn’t intrigue me.

A little over a month ago, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture at Colorado State University (CSU). I went to listen to one of my favorite thriller authors Douglas Preston. He has collaborated with Lincoln Child on a number of books, including a series with the fictional character Aloysius Pendergast that began with the book “Relic.”

The lecture I attended had to do with his new non-fiction book “The Lost City of the Monkey God.” Here’s the book blurb from the novel:

For five hundred years, legends have told of an ancient, lost city hidden in the Honduran rainforest—a place so sacred that those who dared disturb it would fall ill and die.

In 2012, Douglas Preston joined a team of scientists on their quest to find the White City, climbing aboard a rickety plane whose historic flight would change everything. Using a space-age technology that could map terrain under the densest jungle canopy, that flight revealed tantalizing evidence of not just a city but an entire lost civilization. But when the expedition finally reached the ruins, battling torrential rains and venomous snakes in the world’s densest jungle, tragedy struck: Preston and others contracted a mysterious—and incurable—disease.

The Lost City Of The Monkey God is the true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century—a story of ancient curses, modern technology, a vanished culture, and a stunning medical mystery.

As a special treat, the expedition’s chief archaeologist Chris Fisher is a professor at CSU and was on hand to discuss some of the more scientific elements of their discovery.

I sat in the first row of a steep classroom amphitheater with a huge overhead screen that I had to crane my neck to view, but luckily there were two flatscreen TVs mounted to the wall that I could easily view as they showed videos of their trip, along with maps and photographs illustrating their journey and findings.

In some of his thrillers, Douglas Preston has archaeologists as characters, and one of the things I appreciated about those books was that a subject matter that could become dry and boring with an overload of information always came across in interesting, bite-size pieces of information. As a reader, I found myself intrigued by the occupation and learning things that I didn’t know about archaeology.

So while I sat in the audience and listened, I was captivated by the thrill and mystery of this long lost city and their search for it. And time and time again, I found myself thinking, this is why I love my job. I love learning, I love being immersed in the subject, professions, and research that comes before me while preparing for and writing a novel. And I love listening to other authors express their passion, not just for writing, but about the way they’re experiencing the world in preparation to write something.

 

Are there professions that you’ve had a chance to dabble in with your writing? If not, how does your current profession come into play in your writing? It’s not uncommon for authors to write about a field in which they spent a good chunk of their life working. Is there an author you enjoy who writes fiction that deals with their profession outside of writing? An author who comes to mind who was one of my favorite authors in high school is Robin Cook, a doctor who writes medical thrillers.

6 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Hi Mandie! Since I’m not too fond of my job right now, I don’t wtite about it. However, I recently started freelancing, so I may write a short story about a freelancer. I don’t know many authors who use their profession in their work, but I’ll check out the book in this blog post!


    1. // Reply

      Hey, Aka! Good to see you stopping by! I know what you mean about not enjoying your job and not wanting to put it in your stories. But from an outside perspective, a protagonist who doesn’t like their job would not only be interesting and relatable, it could also be quite humorous.
      A lot of authors write books with protagonists who writers.
      Another interesting one is the author whose novels the TV series “Bones” is based on. Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, like her protagonist Temperance Brennan.


  2. // Reply

    What timing for this post. 🙂 I actually had an informational interview last week with a home remodeling contractor and am hoping to schedule one with a second contractor very soon, all because I had this “brilliant idea” (note the slight sarcasm there) that the father of my WIP’s protagonist runs his own home remodeling company. The weird thing is, I’ve never worked in that field, and my only experience with that industry is through watching HGTV and being on the customer’s end of a home remodel. (Well, the daughter of the customers – so I wasn’t very involved in the process!) So when I decided what my protagonist’s father’s profession would be and realized how involved it would become in the story, I knew I was out of my element – and that I would need some help. But I was interested in learning more, so that made it easy to think of questions and understand the contractor’s answers.

    The hardest part, though? Reaching out to contractors to see if they’d be willing to talk to me about their jobs. I can’t even put into words how terrified I was each time I made a call. 😮


    1. // Reply

      I love it when writing topics are on point with what someone else is working on! Even more, I loved hearing about how you reached out to the contractors to learn more about the profession! I haven’t reached a point in my fiction writing where I’ve had to reach out to a professional for information like this yet. Mainly, because the work of my characters has not been that involved in the story. But I’ve been aware that it’s coming for quite some time. I keep telling myself it will be exactly like when I used to interview people for news articles, except maybe more in-depth. I think I’m worried about the part where it was easy to get interviews as a journalist because I was working for a specific publication, whereas this involves more time spent with professionals and the best I can offer them is that it’s for a fiction novel I’m writing. It probably gets easier with practice, and some people might be more generous with their time than others.
      I have done a lot of in-depth reading about different professions before though, which usually leads to hours of research for what amounts to one line in a story. 🙂


  3. // Reply

    Sounds like a great book! The thrill of adventure is calling to me! 🙂 I don’t think I’ve written about my profession in my writings, although I adore stories with librarians! I love James Patterson and Alexandre Dumas. I remember reading some of Robin Cook medical thrillers! My sister had got me into him.


    1. // Reply

      A librarian would make a very good character for a book. A lot of writers also have protagonists who are writers.

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