Debbie's World of Books
My book reviews, book news & random rants

Please Welcome Mary Margret Daughtridge!

April 13th, 2009 by Debbie's World of Books

I am so excited to have Mary Margret Daughtridge as a guest poster today.  She has also graciously offered to answer any questions you may have so please leave them in the comments.  Also be sure to check out her latest book, SEALed With a Promise.  It was excellent!  You can see my review here.

sealedwithpromise

What Do You Know?

By Mary Margret Daughtridge

April 13, 2009

 

 

Write what you know is a piece of advice often given to would-be writers.

 

All I can say to that is, “Oops!” I knew SEALs existed but not a lot more, when I began writing a series in which they would figure as heroes.

 

What I found out, in short order, is that every current detail about their operations and any training beyond basic is secret. That’s not to say there are no sources of SEAL lore—just that at the latest, they date from the eighties. For my research, I was mostly dependant upon Vietnam and Falkan Islands memoirs, and a few current accounts of SEAL basic training.

 

You want facts? There are practically none.

 

So there I was, with a good news/bad news situation.

 

The bad news was I couldn’t correct my deficiency, the good news was I could make up a lot without fear of contradiction.

 

There was another bit of good news. Facts change; human nature doesn’t. And while I don’t claim to know a lot about SEALs, I do know people.

 

For most of my adult life I have worked in psychological/counseling settings. When you come right down to it, I couldn’t care less what kind of rifle someone uses, or how to load it. What makes people tick, what they need to believe in order to do what they do, is a lifelong fascination. For my purposes, memoirs were perfect research material.

 

My aim was to create not a stock alpha hero who happened to be a SEAL, but a SEAL who was a hero in a romance—if you can see the distinction. From memoirs, I could see how SEALs saw themselves. I could sense the cadence of their thoughts. I could observe what they marked as important and unimportant. I could get a feeling for a SEAL “voice.” I could begin to form a picture of the SEAL “character.”

 

Reading SEAL memoirs is not for those with delicate sensibilities. They are intensely physical men and their work brings them into contact life at its rawest. They don’t hide behind euphemisms. They are not hindered by any fastidiousness. In addition to plentiful swearwords, they use language so crude, as I read I would think to myself, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this in print!”

 

They make no bones about the fact that they are highly trained killers. They acknowledge that they are trained to be violent—more violent, more willing to kill than their opponent. They have a saying: Never fight fair!

 

Their self-confidence is so massive, they don’t give a damn what anyone, except perhaps another SEAL, thinks.

 

They are very sophisticated psychologically. They are aware of the mind’s role in all that they do, and they are aware that the presence or absence of certain character traits determine success or failure. They say “There is no I in team” and they mean it. Despite their self-confidence, despite their (well-founded) belief in their superiority, ego-centrism and “star” mentality are not tolerated. They know, in spite of the incredible physical things they do, it’s character that makes a SEAL.

 

They are not Rambos. While embracing violence, they also place a high value on self-control and level-headedness. Nor do they display a “Dirty Harry” lack of affect. On the contrary, they freely acknowledge and express their emotions. They admit to being afraid sometimes, to feelings of conflict—especially around the effect of their careers on their families—they admit to longing for the softer side of life sometimes, and to tender feelings.

 

They are smart. They are generous. They are nurturing. They are incredibly competitive and goal-focused.

 

And did I say generous? In addition to my reading and searching the internet, several SEALs have supplemented my research by allowing me to ask them questions. They have been incredible patient, willingly explaining a SEAL point of view about all sorts of topics, some intimate.

 

One of the things I find most interesting about them is that they all have a sense of “story” and when I tell them a direction I’m taking a story in, they not only answer my question fully, they add what I didn’t know to ask, but will need to set the story up with.

 

In their defense, let me make it clear they did not approve of Jax’s behavior in SEALed With A Kiss, and they didn’t approve of Do-Lord’s in SEALed With A Promise—in fact they were horrified.  I had to promise that the hero would be all he should be by the end.

 

I am grateful and honored that these men have allowed me into their lives. I respect them too much to depict them as cardboard cutouts or little tin gods—shiny on the outside, but hollow on the inside. They are not comic book superheroes, although they achieve super-human feats, and they are unquestionably heroes. Their superlative qualities and accomplishments mean even more to me because they are being done by fallible, vulnerable humans.

 

In discussing research for SEALed With A Promise, I must mention two non-SEAL sources. One was the exhaustively detailed Cold Zero, the memoir of an FBI sniper.

 

The other was a former Green Beret at a local firearms store, who could not believe I had walked in to inquire about sniper rifles. He spent over an hour with me, allowing me to feel a rifle in look through the scope so that I would understand with my body what I was writing.

 

So in the end, that’s how I write about SEALs and at the same time write what I know.

 

Thank you so much Mary Magret for sharing this with us.  If you would like further information about her books please check out her website-http://marymargretdaughtridge.com.  And please go ahead and ask her your questions! 

Posted in Books, Romance

9 Responses

  1. Mary Margret

    Debbie,

    Thanks for the kind words about SEALed With A Promise and for letting me come by today to discuss my research.

    I love hearing from readers. I’ll be happy to answer questions about SEALs, about NLP, about romance…

    And I also like to hear your thoughts!

    Mary Margret

  2. Mary Margret

    On a comment left with the review Deb asks, “What made you decide to write about SEALs?”

    I didn’t know what I was doing! LOL. If I had I would have chosen some group a little easier to research. But for my first book I needed someone in Special Operations who would be gone a large part of the time–someone whose job description was extreme–someone who identified himself with his job.

    That was a SEAL. By the time I found out how hard research was, I was hooked on them.

  3. Mary Margret

    Deb also asks if I have met any SEALs.

    I have “met” several online, and have formed some treasured friendships with them. But not in the flesh.

    It’s gotten almost funny at this point. I know at least 10 women–all good friends–who have former SEALs in their life. But not me.

    I think sometimes the Universe arranges things for our good. I wonder if It knows I need just a little bit of distance in order to write my stories. SEALs are real but my stories and characters are fiction—products of my imagination.

  4. dsuzuki

    LOL. I know for me there is nothing sexier than a man in uniform and being an elite SEAL just adds to that appeal! Do you plan on writing books on the other SEALs mentioned in SEALed with a Promise?

  5. Mary Margret

    Yes, dsuzuki.

    Right now, I’m working on Davy’s story. He’s the too-sexy-for-his-shirt young George Clooney lookalike medical corpsman.

    Expect that next Spring. I also have in mind a story for Lon. And there’s Vic Littletree–you’ve heard his name, and lately a SEAL named Garth Aiden has been flirting with me. Filling my head with ideas…

  6. Kelly

    If you didn’t know much about SEALs when you started the series what made you want to write about them? Thanks!

  7. Mary Margret

    When speaking about the creative process, dating things–saying THIS happened THEN—is difficult.

    As I mentioned in another answer (above) my choice of a SEAL was almost random, but having chosen, I immediately began my research. I’m a voracious reader and very fast. In the space of a week or two, I had read five or six books about and by them.

    For a fuller answer you might want to look at my April 13 blog at

    http://wrotelearning.blogspot.com/

    I go into more detail about how SEALs captured me. :-)

  8. dsuzuki

    Thanks again Mary Margret for stopping by and answering our questions!

  9. richard holloman

    i was impressed with your knowledge of guns and marksmanship. i sensed that you either had a terrific firearms teacher or you did a tremendous amount of research. you are believable! furthermore, i have personally known two SEALS you have captured the essence of the souls i saw and knew.

    keep writing and let me hear from you!

    bro richard

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