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A novel approach to research

MA student trains as a bounty hunter
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Stephanie Broadribb, (MA Crime Thriller Writing), was advised by her tutors to 'get into her character's head' when researching for her novel. This advice led Stephanie to train as a bounty hunter in California earlier this year.

She came back to London a few weeks ago and Helen Merrills, Communications Officer at City University London caught up with her to find out more:

City: What made you decide to train as a bounty hunter?
Stephanie: Earlier this year we had a lecture with World War One historian and writer Julian Putkowski on Research Methods. One of the things he said was that to make our stories feel authentic we needed to understand the world our characters operated in. This was echoed in a guest lecture from author Julia Crouch who gave some great advice on getting into our characters' heads. As the main character in my novel is a female bounty hunter I thought it would be great to find out more about the practicalities of the job and how it feels to be a woman working in what is a traditionally male-dominated business. As I'm someone who generally learns best through experience and practice I thought why not give it a go.

City: How did you find out how to do it?
Stephanie: First thing I did was use Google! The thing about bounty hunting is that every State has different rules and requirements to be fulfilled in order to get a license, so you need to look carefully at what you can and can't do. In my novel the main character works out of Florida, where the term 'bounty hunter' is actually illegal, although the job exists under a different title. I browsed a number of websites and forums and this led me to a book - Modern Bounty Hunting. It was a great resource. When I looked up the author, Rex Venator - who is an experienced bounty hunter based in California - I discovered that they ran courses too. I got in touch and a few months later I was on a plane to LA.

Doing the training was fascinating, both in terms of learning about the business (there's a lot more knowledge of the law required than I'd realised) and hearing about the real life stories and experiences of the trainer, (a highly experienced bounty hunter) and others on the course, many of whom were already bounty hunting in other States. I also learnt lots of practical tips that will be helpful for my main character.

City: What's the best and worst thing about being a bounty hunter?
Stephanie: An effective, active bounty hunter can earn up to $100,000 a year. It's also a mentally and physically challenging job: you need to have great investigation skills, be physically fit and know how the law relates to what you do and be able to argue motions in court. No day and no case is the same! The downside is that it's a dangerous business. Bounty hunters are injured and killed every year.

City: Can you tell us a little bit about the novel?
Stephanie: My novel - Deep Down Dead - is the first in a planned series about 38 year old bounty hunter and single mother, Lori Austen. It's an action thriller set over three days as Lori takes on an assignment that threatens to expose the deadly secret in her past and destroy the new life she's made for herself.

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