“Write What You Know.” –Natalie Walters
They always say “write what you know”. When writing Fatal Code, I really should have listened to whoever “they” are. I have never been more out of my element than writing a story involving science and technology. I hated science in school and I actively avoid updating my phone because by the time I learn how to use all of the updated features I’ll get an alert that a new update is available. So, why did I choose to dive into the world of global military defense weapons and space technology? I’m not a glutton for punishment but I admit there were many days of tortuous writing and researching, but I am curious. And that curiosity got the better of me which produced a story that I ended up loving.
Here are some fun facts/research that went into the development of my plot and characters:
The plot started when a friend who worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory mentioned when an employee leaves the company their home is searched for any documents that reveal what is being researched and developed inside the labs. This was like candy to me! What if a secret did get out? How? What could happen? What if it was a secret from decades ago but with today’s technology could be devastating?
In 1999, it was revealed that nuclear secrets were stolen from the labs. This gave my story plausibility. One of the things I strive for as a writer is to make sure there is realism to my plot.
When I was creating my team of scientists, my research led me to the stories of several African American scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. There weren’t any who worked at LANL at the time of the project but Black scientists did join the laboratory after the war, which helped in the development of my Los Alamos Five.
Knowing my limitations when it comes to science and all things computer technology related, I was really at a loss when I needed to come up with a nuclear weapon…enter comic-loving brother. With my brother’s help we came up with the RAABIT. A nuclear weapon that could’ve been designed at the time of the atomic bomb but if designed with our current technology to be used in space would be beyond devastating. It might be one of the things I’m most proud of and is completely fictional…at least I think. Those guys at the Defense Department won’t confirm one way or the other.
The easiest research for my story involved my characters, specifically Kekoa. My husband is Hawaiian/Korean and it was really fun to highlight some of my favorite characteristics from him and his culture. The love of food and family (grindz and ohana) is highlighted throughout the story. What wasn’t so easy about his character was his job choice. Again, “write what you know” didn’t really come to mind when I chose his profession as a Navy Cryptologist. I had to do a ton of research and consult a friend who was a former cryppie to make sure I got his skillset down right. Computer language is no joke and I will never, ever, look at programs the same way again.
One of my favorite parts of this story is the code-breaking. I researched the different kinds of secret codes used throughout history and it was fun to use some of them to hide the secret information in plain sight.
I admit, of all the stories I’ve written, Fatal Code might go down as the hardest in regards to research and getting the information as accurate as I could. There were many, many tears and pulling out hair because I felt like I was in way too deep. Without the generous help from those in the fields of computer science, cryptology, military, defense, and comic book loving brother, this story would not have made it.
Here’a look at Natalie’s latest release FATAL CODE:
In 1964, a group of scientists called the Los Alamos Five came close to finishing a nuclear energy project for the United States government when they were abruptly disbanded. Now the granddaughter of one of those five scientists, aerospace engineer Elinor Mitchell, discovers that she has highly sensitive information on the project in her possession–and a target on her back.
SNAP agent and former Navy cryptologist Kekoa Young is tasked with monitoring Elinor. This is both convenient since she’s his neighbor in Washington, DC, and decidedly inconvenient because . . . well, he kind of likes her.
As Elinor follows the clues her grandfather left behind to a top-secret nuclear project, Kekoa has no choice but to step in. When Elinor learns he has been spying on her, she’s crushed. But with danger closing in on all sides, she’ll have to trust him to ensure her discoveries stay out of enemy hands.