Researching Break the Rules

There were a few bits I had to research for Break the Rules, the biggest of which was the main setting - an oil refinery. Now I've worked on a processing plant before, so I knew a little bit about how plants ran and what was required, but not enough for the accuracy it required.

Break the Rules Cover

My first stop was the internet. I googled oil refineries​ and because Bridget works in safety, I also researched all the potential things could go wrong. I hit the jackpot with the Chemical Safety Board. This is the agency that investigates all the incidents relating to chemicals and the incident investigation reports are available on their website. A few clicks and I had downloaded a couple of reports relating to oil refineries. 

This gave me a really good overview of what kind of safety processes they have in place and what things they should have in place! 

I started writing my story based on the information I'd gathered and also my own knowledge of plants. By the time I got to the end of the book I thought I had a reasonable approximation, but I still needed a few nitty gritty details.

I rang a friend who'd worked at an oil refinery for twenty years or so. We got together for coffee and he was kind enough to fill in the details. He drew me a rough map of the layout of the plant (cue edits to manuscript!) and he explained the process of how the oil was processed. It was more detail than I needed for the story, but it was still important to have an idea in case one of my characters made an offhand comment about something.

He also told me about the emergency response, which is one thing Bridget is involved in as part of her role. I was fascinated by the details and quite reassured by the level of training the operators received.

The hardest thing for me was balancing the technical information. How much information was too much for the reader? I needed some level of technical stuff because the conversations at work revolved around it, but I didn't want to confuse the reader with unnecessary detail. It was quite tricky, especially when my editor didn't understand things I thought were clear and wanted more information for bits where I didn't think it was required! In the end I sent all the technical bits to my critique group for a second, third and fourth opinion. From all of the feedback I made changes and now I hope it's clear enough for everyone. 🙂