Somebody once asked me, “What in the world would you research? Your novel is fiction. It’s all made up!”
I had to bust out laughing.
First of all, I’ve never been a serial killer nor do I ever plan to be. So researching serial killers took some time. I admit to watching a ton of Criminal Minds with my friend Aubrey (who I will never forgive for saying “Boo!” at a particularly perfect moment and making me jump out of my skin) and spending the afternoon soaking up video anthologies about serial killers (popcorn included) with my friend Linda, a psych nurse who gave me insight on some very weird behaviors.
Furthermore, although I know a lot about Latino culture and I’ve visited Miami, I have no idea where the ritzy houses are located–so I had to find out. Likewise, I had to learn where hookers hang out.
I took a class in Forensics for Writers, I had coffee many times with a friend who is a police officer (not to mention the zillion emails I sent). I walked through department stores scrutinizing layouts, and I even had a few beers at a local Irish Pub to study the ambiance. As an aside, I’ve learned I fancy stouts and porters. Who knew?
I researched poker hands, checked out the various types of violations health inspectors hand out, I learned what kinds of cars are used in undercover work and recalled my time and the cross-dressed ladies I met in New Orleans on Bourbon Street.
I’ve spent a whole lot of time around rabbits and I drew on that knowledge when writing about Norman–Apple’s bunny.
So just know that when people ask what in the world you research for a novel, they’re not trying to be offensive, they just really don’t know how much work goes into writing a book. How many hours of sweat, love, imagination, work and research go into making a story believable. Because if the research is lacking, the first criticism is about how the book lacks realism.
One of the best compliments we can receive as writers is when readers ask if we did any research because if we did our jobs right, our facts are woven seamlessly into the story.