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A CASE FOR LOVE: The Research

Monday, January 11, 2010

I’ve mentioned in a few places a little bit about some of the research I did when writing A Case for Love, but today, I have proof!

Last January, after several weeks of watching the morning “news magazine” program on which I based Alaine’s Inside Bonneterre program—Talk of the Town on WTVF, Nashville’s CBS affiliate—I e-mailed the host, Meryll Rose, the following through the contact address on the station’s website:

      From: Kaye Dacus
      Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 12:23 PM
      To: Meryll Rose
      Subject: I would like to interview you

      Dear Ms. Rose:

      I enjoy seeing you on “Talk of the Town” every day on News Channel 5. In fact, your program is part of the inspiration for the main character of the novel I am currently writing. I would love to set up a time to interview you about your job and find out what goes into making a daily lifestyle program like “Talk of the Town” so that I can get the details right in my novel.

      My schedule is flexible and can be worked around yours. If you are interested, please send me your direct contact information, or let me know what a good time to talk would be.

      I look forward to speaking with you.

I figured I didn’t have anything to lose—the worst she could say was no, that she was too busy. The next day, I received the following reply:

      From: Meryll Rose
      Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 4:03 PM
      To: ‘Kaye Dacus’
      Subject: RE: I would like to interview you

      Hi Kaye,

      I’ve always thought Talk of the Town would make a great novel! I’d be happy to help you fill in the blanks about what goes on here.

      Would you like to come to the studio and watch us do the show? That would give you a feel for what goes on behind the scenes, and we could talk while you’re here.

      Let me know what works for you… I’m here almost every day!

      Meryll Rose
      Talk of the Town/ WTVF-TV

So we set it up that I would go down to the studio (in downtown Nashville) on February 2, 2009, meet with Ms. Rose before she had to start recording her teasers for the next day’s show, meet several other people, including Lelan Statom, the daytime meteorologist, and Vicki Yates, the daytime news anchor. (And yes, the camera skews your perception of someone’s size. Lelan wasn’t nearly as tall as I thought he would be!)

So I arrived at the studio early and was taken downstairs (the building is situated on a hill in such a way that the main entrance which opens out onto street level is actually the building’s second or third floor—I want to say third, but that’s because that’s how the newspaper building where I worked for ten years was built) to the studio. Again, the camera gives a skewed perception—the studio was much smaller than I expected it to be—with the weather station to the left, the main news desk in the center, and Stage C, where Meryll and Lelan sit to do Talk of the Town to the right—with their mock-kitchen area across from the main news desk though closer to Stage C than the news desk—I know, I’m not making that easy to visualize—as I recall, it was kind of like this:

And if you think your office or home is cold, you haven’t experienced a cold work environment until you’ve been into a TV studio. They must have that room chilled to about sixty degrees—yet it probably still gets up to about 75 or 80 for the anchors under all those lights.

Here’s what the studio actually looks like:

With the weather desk to the left and the news desk in the middle (with Vicki Yates, behind the stand that has a flat-panel monitor attached to it, at the desk filming a “coming up on News Channel 5” teaser).

I couldn’t really take a lot of pictures—I spent most of my time talking to people and taking notes, but I did take detailed pictures of the cameras, because they fascinated me so much, never having seen how a teleprompter really works.

Here you see the main camera for Talk of the Town with Meryll’s script for the teaser for the next day’s show (and on the flat-panel monitor beyond the camera, you can make out the list of teasers they were recording). The “VO” on the monitor indicates when she’ll be talking but they’re rolling video clips instead of showing her (thus it’s a “voiceover”). Below the teleprompter is a monitor that shows what’s actually being broadcast at that moment.

In this shot, you can see that the camera lens is actually behind the glass on which the words are reflected—from what looks like a laptop-base below it. The words are projected backwards from the horizontal monitor and reflected on the angled glass in front of the camera lens!

For the rest of what I learned at the studio . . . you’ll just have to wait and read A Case for Love.

Now, I didn’t go quite so far in doing research for Forbes’s job as a lawyer. I never want to assume that the way any profession is portrayed in movies/on TV is accurate (after working for more than a decade in the newspaper business, I know this is not true!), but given the proliferation of examples of lawyer characters/law firms I’ve seen, I know what the expectation is for readers who’ve also never actually worked in a law firm—because it’s about the same as mine. But pulling from my own years working in an office environment as well as serving on jury duty, reading several John Grisham novels, and checking with a couple of friends/acquaintances who are lawyers when I wasn’t sure exactly how something would work, I’ve hopefully managed to make Forbes’s job realistic enough that it won’t turn off anyone who is a lawyer and believable enough for readers to connect with.

Obviously, I had to do a lot of research on what kind of legal case I could do. I had to be extremely careful with that research and make sure I was looking only at Louisiana law—because laws dealing with eminent domain (which I discovered I couldn’t use) and other issues regarding real estate development vary from state to state. But I won’t bore you with those details.

The only other major thing I had to research for the book was dancing. You see, while I had the music of Dean Martin as the cultural throughline in Stand-In Groom and the movies of John Wayne in Menu for Romance, I struggled with what it would be in A Case for Love—until Jenn came up to Forbes and begged him to take dance lessons with her. So I had to brush up on my steps a little. Thank goodness for YouTube and people who’ve posted video dance lessons there!

  1. Monday, January 11, 2010 1:52 pm

    So… will you appear on the show as a featured guest?


    • Monday, January 11, 2010 1:55 pm

      I’ll probably send them a press-release as soon as A Case for Love comes out along with a personal letter to Meryll (and a signed copy, of course) letting her know how much I’d love to come on and talk about writing, about the local group of authors I lead, etc. As an RWA member, I’ll also mention that the RWA conference will be in Nashville this summer.


  2. Monday, January 11, 2010 1:58 pm

    Isn’t it fun to research things that you’ve always wondered about, but never really had the opportunity to experience? I would love to be a fly on the wall of a TV set. When I was about 5 or 6, I and some of my friends were on the “Popeye” show, where they had a “peanut gallery” of kids at the local Paducah station, and “Captian Dave” (or Bob, or Steve, or whoever was low-anchor on the totem-pole at the time) would interview us between cartoon shorts. Even at such a young age, I was fascinated by television production. And now I have a daughter who wants to work in that environment.

    So “A Case For Love” involves dance lessons, eh? Another subject that has fascinated, but of which I have NO experience! Cool!


    • Monday, January 11, 2010 2:00 pm

      I considered actually going and taking a couple of dance lessons . . . but without a partner, I really didn’t want to risk paying to be a wallflower!


  3. Monday, January 11, 2010 2:06 pm

    How great that you were so well received at the TV station. It sounds as though you had excellent access.


  4. Adrienne permalink
    Monday, January 11, 2010 2:15 pm

    I never knew the teleprompters were like that. I always like seeing the behind the scenes stuff for movies and books. Youtube does have a lot of videos of just about everything. I’ve actually watched some of the old movies where they danced on Youtube. Dancing in the Rain was awesome and Fred Astaire was amazing.


  5. Monday, January 11, 2010 2:19 pm

    Yay for behind-the-scenes research . . . You’re a true scholar!

    And even though the following info is slightly OT, it’s 1) about TV, and 2) connected to your favorite TV show. If you already know about it, forgive the duplication!


    This is the first time the STAR TREK director has taken the helm of a TV project since LOST

    By ABBIE BERNSTEIN and CARL CORTEZ, Contributing Writers
    Published 1/10/2010

    LOCATION: Pasadena, CA

    THE SKINNY: Big news for the new J.J. Abrams TV show UNDERCOVERS which is scheduled to debut on NBC in the fall.

    It looks like Abrams will actually take the directorial helm for a TV pilot.

    “J.J. will direct the pilot, something he hasn’t done since the LOST pilot,” says Jeff Gaspin, NBC Universal Chairman of Television Entertainment, at today’s Winter TCA press tour.

    The show follows a domesticated husband and wife who come out of retirement and are re-activated as CIA agents.

    Abrams co-created the project with Josh Reims and while Abrams TV shows tend to be mythology driven (FRINGE, LOST), Angela Bromstad, NBC and Universal Media Studios Prime Time President says that will not be the case here.

    “It will be a really close-end procedural that has a specific mission” says Bromstad.


    • Monday, January 11, 2010 2:37 pm

      How exciting!! I’ll keep watch for that one.


    • Monday, January 11, 2010 2:42 pm

      Sounds like a spinoff of Mr. & Mrs. Smith! Maybe it’ll be the revitalization NBC needs in their scripted programming.


  6. Monday, January 11, 2010 2:42 pm

    That’s facinating. And so neat how it worked out for you to get behind the scenes. I got to visit a TV station a few years back and have a tour but nothing like this.

    So if my protagonist is an Islamic “state” official in the Middle East how do you suggest I go about getting behind the scenes there? Haha, just kidding.


  7. Monday, January 11, 2010 7:42 pm

    LOL you need to come to my house, we keep the thermostat on 60 all the time! I would have been right at home there. 😛 It’s so cool how they project the words on the teleprompter right over the camera lens! It looks like you had a fun time there

    I’m glad that you had to brush up on your dancing and not me! I have two left feet and NO rythm whatsoever. I’ll just enjoy reading about it in A Case For Love thank you very much! 😛

    xoxo~ Renee


  8. Tuesday, January 12, 2010 12:51 am

    Dear Kaye,

    I read Stand in Groom in December and LOVED it! Thank you so much for giving us a Christian Romance Fiction book where the the faith of both characters played such a vital role in the story. I appreciated that so much! I am eagerly looking forward to reading the next two books in your Brides of Bonneterre series as well as your other books!
    ~Jen Unsell


  9. Amee permalink
    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 1:53 pm

    I never knew the camera and teleprompter were one like that. I’ve always wondered how they can read their lines while still looking directly into a camera. I always just assumed the lines were above or below the camera which made me marvel at their ability to read peripherally! lol


  10. Jess permalink
    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 11:03 pm

    That was so nice of them…especially since you didn’t really mention that you are a “real” author writing a contracted series. (I would’ve bragged way more.)
    Have you seen that clip on Youtube where the anchorwoman gets proposed to live? It’s so sweet!


  11. Monday, January 18, 2010 11:51 am

    What a fun experience! I’ve always wondered how they do things. I am camera shy and would never be good at being in front of a camera. The studio lights would drive me crazy too; I’m not good with heat. So 60 sounds pretty good to me. 🙂


  12. Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:22 pm

    This was a really interesting blog. I’ve always been fascinated by learning about experiences that go on behind the scenes. How neat to have such opportunities! Do you find that most people you contact to interview are receptive?


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