Gayle Lynds: How do you know whether what you’re reading in a novel is fact or fiction? Right now, in this very moment, I’ll bet you remember that the grand old Mississippi River flows south through the U.S.’s midsection, pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Would you be surprised if I told you that in some authors’ spy books, real-life rivers flow in the wrong direction, international commercial jets land in small regional airports, and sound suppressors are screwed onto revolvers? Seriously.
In my second spy thriller, Mosaic, my heroine is blind, regains her sight, but then loses it again. Sound like a lie? Probably, if you haven’t heard of shell shock, or battle fatigue, or conversion disorder. All refer to the same illness, in which a patient “converts” a terrible psychological trauma into a physical symptom. Blindness is at the top of the list. Can you guess what the treatment is? And it’s all true.
In my third espionage novel, Mesmerized, my heroine has a heart transplant and apparently inherits tastes, ideas, even memories from her donor, a former KGB officer. Unbelievable, right? Not completely, not according to the growing scientific studies backing it up.
Then there’s the real-life global race to create the world’s first molecular — or DNA — computer, forging an unprecedented bond between life science and computational science. I wrote about that in The Paris Option. Imagine a computer so fast it’ll break any code or encryption in seconds. All of America’s missiles, NSA’s secret systems, NRO’s spy satellites, the entire ability of the navy to operate, all defense plans, our electric grids . . . anything and everything that relies on electronics would be at the mercy of the first molecular computer. Not even the largest silicon supercomputer would be able to stop it.
Oh, the grandeur of unusual ideas woven into an adventure story. Sigh of pleasure.
But this fascination of mine means I’ve failed in today’s assigned task. . . . For Rogue Women’s next series of blogs, we’re writing about “Stranger Than Fiction: What we’ve discovered in our research that’s so weird we can’t use it in a book.”
My problem is that if I can’t use it, I forget it. But at the same time, when I stumble on research that seems to me particularly juicy and challenging, it lingers in my mind, niggling, enticing. For instance, did you know there’s a spectrum in sociopathy among stone-cold killers? And did you know one of the most difficult characteristics to hide consistently is a person’s walk? Those two ideas are fundamental to my most recent spy thriller, The Assassins.
Hmm. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about . . . No, no. Although some might find it strange, I think that’s going into my next book. Back to work!
What item or items have you found that are truly stranger than fiction?”