I’ll let you in on a secret: for someone who writes about far-off places and exotic jobs… I’m not that fond of research. I read about writers who talk about getting lost in research to the point that they end up not writing and that is not me. I just want to tell my story—why are the facts so difficult to deal with?
I’ve tried going to the library and reading books like a good researcher, and I just… can’t. I lose patience most of the time when I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for. For me, that sort of long-form research tends to happen when I don’t even realize I’m researching. In other words, I’m already reading about a topic that interests me, when I realize there’s a book idea right there staring me in the face.
That’s where the internet is my godsend. When I’m writing a book, I start with enough base knowledge to know that I want to write about the topic at hand. Then I do enough research at the front end to have a decent sense of my setting. I check the plausibility of any plot points I’m not sure of, and often, I’ll find the little details that make the difference. Best of all, this is where I sometimes find new little details that become plot points. From there, I try to limit my research to when I’m stuck on a particular point of data: “wait, how many bullets are in that gun, after all?”
Doing research for As Lost As I Get, I found a whole new resource for information, one I hadn’t considered before, and turned out to be absolutely perfect for me: video. I watched endless documentaries of everything from Doctors Without Borders to a biography of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. And best of all, I found a lot of tourist videos taken on and around the Rio Inírida, which plays an enormous role in the book. The amazing visuals gave me endless inspiration, and I hope helped make the town of Inírida and its surroundings come to life.
So maybe for this next book, I will take a trip to the library… to check out their video collection. 😉