Researching: Pandemic Style
I love researching for books.
Getting to learn about a new place, skill, or slice of history is one of my favorite parts of being an author.
When I first started working on the Girl of Glass series, I spent a ton of time in greenhouses and biodomes, learning as much as I could about plant preservation and sustainable farming. With The Tethering series, I actually climbed Mount Greylock to be sure the location would work for the books.
But with the travel restrictions we currently face and the importance and protecting those around us, interstate travel to explore locations isn't really in the cards right now.
Never fear! I have some sneaky tips for how to scout locations and gain information from the comfort of your own home.
If you're familiar with Google Maps, you may have used street view. It's a cool little tool that allows you to zip down the street from a car's point of view, giving you a better idea of what a neighborhood/shopping plaza/city park is really like. If you've never used street view, you can see Google's instructions here.
If you're looking for pictures of a trail or a spot in the woods, the AllTrails app has user photos uploaded. Type in the area you were wanting to use as a location, and see pictures of what the terrain is really like.
TripAdvisor also allows user-uploaded photos for specific tourist destinations if you want to make sure you're looking at pictures of the right temple in Thailand and not something from Malaysia instead.
Need to know something about a specific city? Put out a call for help on social media. Asking someone to talk about their city may seem intimidating, but most people love to offer their local knowledge. I usually end up with a restaurant recommendation as a bonus.
The same goes for expert knowledge in a specific field. If someone has spent their life restoring old houses, chances are they have a passion for their work and would love to tell you about 1920s heating systems.
If all else fails, hop down into the Google Images rabbithole. You may be in for a time-consuming ride, but when the world gets strange, we don't stop writing. We adapt our methods.
So for the writers, keep plugging away. And for the readers out there, send your favorite author a little bit of love this week. Give them a shout out on social media. Send them an email. However you do it, add a spark to their day. You may be the bit of light that keeps them plowing through the research so they can write your next favorite novel.