Friday, June 09, 2006

Adventures in Albuquerque

"I knew I should've taken that left turn in Albuquerque!"- Bugs Bunny

"Wait, I did that around the middle of May!"- Jill Nelson

And a fun time was had by me, myself, and I on the research trail for Reluctant Runaway, the second in the To Catch a Thief Series. With Runaway set in Albuquerque, I realized when I signed up for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference near Estes Park, Colorado, that I was only a bunny-hop away from that New Mexico city with the outlandish name. So I decided to take the fateful left turn.

My most fascinating stop was at the FBI office building, a modern stone fortress towering behind a tall iron fence. And only one dinky entrance enclosed behind darkened glass. Gack! Do they let you out if by some miracle they let you in?

Before we discover the answer, I need to backtrack to my telephone conversation the day before with the media liaison at the Albuquerque office. I phoned the receptionist to let her know this author person was going to stop by tomorrow, and if there were someone whose normal duties would encompass speaking to such an anomaly, I’d be grateful. The nice woman actually sounded interested. Very encouraging. She put me on hold, checked with someone, then put me through to the media liaison. I got his voice mail, which was pretty interesting, too. He invited me to leave "a brief message or a detailed confession." Now, who says the FBI has no sense of humor?

But I will say they’re a bit cagey. About five minutes after I left my message WITHOUT my call back number, I got a call back. And the caller ID in my cell phone screen was all zeros. Yikes! So they get my number, but I don’t get theirs? How fair is that? I suspect the man was in his office all along, but he checked my message to see what I wanted before he bothered with me. The fact that he did bother with me made up a little for the totally cool sneakiness. He then gave me some info that saved my bacon on a plot twist for Runaway. Major for me, minor for him as he went back to his regular duties.

If I had to characterize my interaction with the personnel, I’d say cordial but reserved. They’re not big on warm fuzzies and guarded about details of their jobs. Understandable. They’re pitted against gentlefolk with guns and bombs and other quaint methods of destruction. I do NOT want their job; I just want to write about it.

Questions occur to me about author/fed relations. (Is there such a thing?) Novels, TV shows,
and movies about the FBI abound. We’re fascinated with them. Do agents ever watch the shows or read the books? Do they laugh their heads off at the inaccuracies? Or are they glad we don’t know all their business? Would they like to prosecute the more bubble-brained writers and even throw away the key on the insulting ones? Agents are people, too, but what do they think about authors? Do they think about us at all? If anyone has insight I’m all ears.

Next week, I’ll return to the saga of my visit to the FBI building, plus more Adventures in Albuquerque.

No comments: