Expertise Vs Experience

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Today is the first day of school around here.  My kids are now both in high school, Boykid is just into grade 12 and Callie in grade 9.  He is rather blah about it but she was beyond anticipatory.  She was so excited, (I said eager, she called it ‘prepared’), that she had her course schedule, her locker and lock combo, her class numbers and the route through the school from class to class all committed to memory days ago.  The great thing is that they were both out the door at the same time! Plus I get to see my son every day. I am a happy camper.

But today’s landmark brought to mind the fact that while I have been mulling this blog topic over I do actually need to write it, not just think it.   The Boyfriend asked me a question last week that I haven’t really been able to answer.  

The Question:

Does Catherine Bowman talk about her expertise with the paranormal?

Now, let me give you some background before I attempt an answer.  

We are reading books about building a platform and making a name for yourself.  A platform is required before you’re recognized.  Fame is an excellent platform and for movie or music stars that comes when they get their break and are noticed.  They have to go to auditions and make demos and tapes and work their asses off before that ‘overnight’ success comes for them, if it ever does.

A writer also needs a platform.  For a writer in this day and age a platform is pretty well vital.   In order for an author to get their book noticed they have to have really good marketing.  They have to prove to a potential publishing house that their book has a market.   One of the boards in that platform (sorry, I visualise it as a dock, a place to jump from the safe into the vast ocean of new, unknown, untapped experiences) is the ability to talk about your area of expertise.  

“Expertise?” you ask with a modicum of confusion.

Well, if you’re writing a non-fiction book, let’s say it’s about the psychiatric condition where someone believes they’re a cat, you need to have some expertise in that area.  You’ve studied those people afflicted with the condition, you’ve studied psychiatry, perhaps you’ve studied cats; that means you can speak with authority about it.   So you do.  You have a course you teach, you give lectures here and there, you have a forum online, a blog.   All these things are your platform.  All these things have given you a built in audience, especially when you include family members of or other people who think they’re cats.

I think a fiction writer is different.  Sure, there are those with expertise; like Stephen King.  His expertise is horror.  You could say Dan Brown is an expert in symbols and you’d probably be right (I don’t know enough about him to say so).    It took Stephen King a long time and a lot of writing to reach expert level, don’t you think?   And Dan Brown is an English teacher.  He developed “developed a fascination with the paradoxical interplay between science and religion” ( ) at a young age.  That interest made him study that interplay and gave him a level of expertise few have.

But what about writers like Laurell K Hamilton, Kim Harrison and me?  (Yep, I’m going to lump me in with those two well respected and beloved authors. 😉 )   We write about creatures that don’t exist, in worlds that are only partly based on reality.  LKH is in St Louis, but it’s a world where Weres and Vampires are common, where necromancers are common enough that they have a healthy legitimate business.  Ms. Harrison writes about Elves, Weres, Witches, Vampires and more in Cincinnati, in a world that was changed forever by a virus that killed almost half the world’s human population.  I write about Witches, Vampires, Weres and others in a world that isn’t aware they exist (but may soon be).  

So what is our expertise?   Let’s take Vampires for example.  There are so many takes on what these creatures are – Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, J.R. Ward and even Christine Feehan (with her Dark Series) all have different takes.  There are similar traits like the fangs, the blood drinking, the intolerance for sunlight.   But there the similarities end.  Bram Stoker says that Vampires cannot be touched by holy objects.  Anne Rice agrees with Stoker that Vampires are undead and must drink the blood of humans.  J.R Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood are all alive, they eat food, they reproduce but the blood of humans doesn’t nourish them, they must drink from their own species and the opposite gender.  Christine Feehan’s Vampires lose their ability to feel emotion and see colour unless they find their lifemates, the one person who is the other half of their heart and soul.  My Vampires have two lives – the living one, where they have a heartbeat and are much like humans and the rebirth into the undead.  (Incidentally, Kim Harrison’s Ivy Tamwood is a living Vampire, her mother has passed into her second life and become Undead.  Mine aren’t a copy, it’s just the way Anna and her family are)

So many different ways to have a Vampire exist.  So what’s right?

Who knows. 

Were-creatures almost always the same – humans who change into animals.  Some authors insist they only do it on the full moon, others say Weres change whenever they want to, some say it’s both.  Some authors think only Werewolves are the right Weres, while others expand the mythos to include almost every creature.

So how do so many differences make any of us an expert?

Of course, I think The Boyfriend was talking more about my experience with energy, ghosts, astral travel and the like.  I have a lot of experience with using energy, with ghosts (although ‘a lot’ is relative) and astral travel.  How much experience do I need before I become an expert?  How much of my experience can I talk about before people stop taking me seriously?  What can I talk about?   There are things I’ve done that are wholly unbelievable.  Should I talk about the books I’ve read in order to learn what I know?  

These are the questions I’m looking at.  These are the things I’ve been wrestling with for over a week now.  

What would you like to know?


Oh, by the way Val, I think you’d like the Dark Series.  I believe I have the ebooks if you want to sample the first one.  😉