Over the years I’ve gone traditional ways to make sure what I write is correct. When I wrote a romance based in Australia I carried a mile high stack of books out of the library. Yes, children, once upon a time there was NO Internet, just libraries where you had to stay there to read reference books and check out the others. I wrote a ton of notes and didn’t use a fraction of them, but that was fine. After the book was published I was asked by more than one reader if I spent a lot of time in Australia.
I did the same with another book with an archeologist heroine I liked to describe as “if Indiana Jones had a granddaughter’. I sat at a library table covered with books on the subject and took so many books home where I’d sit on my office floor surrounded by books about ancient countries and cultures. Again, I wouldn’t use it all, but I felt as if I had the flavor of the subject all the way through my bones. I learned a lot and increased my love for ancient history.
But it’s not just books that make research fun, but meeting people along the way. While writing romantic suspense I talked to police officers, learned what it was like for a woman working for the California Highway Patrol when female officers were still new to the force. I spent time talking to FBI agents, a former CIA agent, and even a Secret Service agent. One FBI agent told me he couldn’t believe someone who looked as sweet and innocent as me could sit there and happily talk about serial killers. What can I say? There’s many a deranged bone in my body.
I also learned that talking to people as part of my research is a great way of adding more depth to my characters. I find out how they think, how they look at situations, and get some fantastic stories in the process.
The Internet has made it easier to do research. You hit your favorite search site and type in whatever you’re looking for. My personal library of reference books keeps on growing along with a long list of bookmarked sites online.
As a kid who’s always loved to read and enjoyed reading history books, I’ve incorporated that love into my books. Especially now when I can insert pieces of historical fact into each book. I dig in to find out when Catherine Medici was alive. When the first car hop was introduced to American culture. Checking dates and locations for various wars. You name it.
So what about you? As a writer, do you enjoy doing research? Is there a favorite book or site you turn to a lot? And as a reader, do you like it when a writer sprinkles fact with their fiction?