I don’t mind doing it. In fact, it’s probably kind of a sickness, but I actually enjoy it.
Most of the time.
Not so much when what I need isn’t available anywhere.
Queue the one resource I think we all tend to forget. PEOPLE. I’m pretty lucky. So far, I haven’t found a topic that I couldn’t conquer with a quick search on the web or a call to family and friends.
I have several veterans in my family as well as a few who are active duty. And I have quite a few friends who serve. (It pays to have lived near WPAFB. I met a lot of people who have become resources for me.) These resources have helped with my Nightforce Security Series, my Medici Protectorate Series, and my Astral Conspiracies Series (written under the pen name D. L. Cross).
I have a cousin on a small town force and a friend who is employed in a big city. I also have a family member with connections on forces in multiple towns. (He works for a 9-1-1 center and knows everybody.) I’ve made use of their help in my Cathedral Lake Series, my Medici Protectorate Series, and my Steel City Crime novels (written under the pen name Delilah Cross).
I think I know more people who are gun enthusiasts than people who aren’t. I’ve pestered several of them for specifics on gun terminology. I think I’ve had questions about guns in every series I’ve written.
I’m incredibly lucky in this regard. My sister-in-law is an attorney. Her knowledge was invaluable in my Cathedral Lake Series, Medici Protectorate Series, and Nightforce Security Series.
My nephew-in-law is a surgeon. And I have a few friends from my Ohio days who are also doctors. I relied heavily on their knowledge for the Cathedral Lake Series, and I’ve asked smaller questions for other books.
I have a nephew who is an aerospace engineer. His help was critical when I was looking for information about Ospreys for my Astral Conspiracies Series and for a standalone novel I suspect will never see the light of day.
FOREIGN COUNTRY QUESTIONS Not all of my books are set in places I’ve been. I have writing friends all over the globe, and my daughter goes to a school with a high foreign population. Between her connections and mine, I have the help of several subject matter experts when I need to know a word or phrase or the feel of an area. These contacts were extremely helpful when I wrote the Medici Protectorate Series and the Astral Conspiracies Series.
The list goes on and on.
Am I writing this to gloat about my good fortune? No. Although I would like to give them all a shout-out and a huge hug of thanks. I’m writing this to remind you that there’s more to research than the Internet.
- Social Media Contacts
- PR Liaison for Police and Fire Departments
- Public Affairs Officer at a Nearby Military Branch
- Experts in the Field (I’ve called boat tour companies with questions about ships and routes and asked high rollers questions about gambling and casinos; my sister has talked to curators about museum operations.)
- Librarians (they can often find things you can’t because they know the terms and locations to use)
This list goes on and on, too.
When you have a question and Google’s no help, think beyond your laptop. A few tips to remember:
- Be courteous when you reach out.
- Have a list of questions ready so you don’t waste their time.
- Request a follow-up if you need one.
- Don’t expect an immediate answer. You’re on their time-table, not yours.
- Thank them when the question is answered.
- Thank them again in the book acknowledgments and/or a blog post. (This will depend on your publisher’s feeling on an acknowledgments section.)
- If appropriate, send them a signed copy of your book once it’s published. (Or an eBook if you don’t do print copies.)
The Internet is a handy tool for research, but sometimes it’s not enough. I bet if you really stop and think about it, you know someone who can answer almost any question you have. What’s the most interesting research you’ve ever done for a book? And where did you get your answers? Let’s talk about it.