I have a love/hate relationship with research. Which seems appropriate, since they're two sides of the same coin. I hate when it pulls me away from writing and going through multiple sites can be exceedingly tedious. Yet, I love research because it takes me places I would never go otherwise. I learn new and wonderful things, as well as gruesome things I would have been okay with never knowing. Like what happens to the human body when it's launched off a twelve-story building.
My fifth book is about a woman who's family has been immersed in politics for generations. Despite the fact that she walked away from that in search of peace and happiness, I needed to know all the ins and outs of our political system. (I'm sure I learned them in school, but I totally failed in the retention department.) The minimum age to serve in Congress, how many terms you could serve, how long you can serve as Governor of Washington, how the Mayor of Olympia was elected in 1982, and many more little details. Because while 99% of readers won't know or care that the City Council nominated the Mayor back then, that 1% might chuck my book across the room if I get it wrong.
A reader launching my book is the very last thing I want.
So, I research. Sometimes, that means a fairly simple Google search to pull up a diagram of a tugboat or find the perfect pearl-handled stiletto. Other times I need a specialty site, in which case websites with things like this list of writer's resources can be helpful. In my experience, it can be vital to dig just a little deeper than you think necessary. That extra inch and additional five or fifteen minutes makes the difference between "Just the facts, ma'am," and having the details necessary to fully immerse the reader in a grisly scene, a romantic dinner aboard a yacht, or the heroine's late night jog along the Greenbelt.
Then we have villains. I adore my villains. They're full of confidence and intrinsically disturbed in ways they're incapable of recognizing. As with all of the above, it's also vitally important to be accurate in the nature of their brooding or erratic illness. Try The Fiction Writer's Guide to Psychology at http://www.archetypewriting.com/ for information on disorders.
There is little that cannot be found online, but don't be afraid to phone your local police station's public relations office to ask for an interview. Or the local FBI division, coroner's office, attorney, or anyone else if you need an expert opinion or inside viewpoint. Most people are more than happy to share their knowledge with someone who's genuinely interested and asks respectful, insightful questions. Especially if you offer to thank them in the forward of your book. Be sure to ask them at the conclusion of the interview if you can contact them again with follow-up questions should any arise.
Research is Wicked Fun!
"Because you are
a beautiful lie
and I am
a painful truth."
Life asked death,
"Why do people
but hate you?"