I am a total research geek.
I am also proud of it! I love research, find it fascinating and easy to do. Here are 5 Tips for doing research and a bit about how I do mine.
Most people love being asked about what they do best. Perhaps some of this love comes from all that time in the back of a car in the middle of nowhere with my family. Rental station wagons, borrowed 4 wheel drives were our mode of transport other than our big Lincoln.
Beau and I learned to drive early. Mom drove and Dad didn’t so we were being raised to help with the driving and as mom learned at 8 on a tractor and had a jr license at 11 she saw no reason we shouldn’t learn early. I drove in the middle of nowhere –first time behind the wheel by myself was at 9, helped drive home from Colorado at 14 and at 13 I was already driving a truck around the Shalako property on dirt roads ferrying picnic supplies and people. But I digress.
- Ask for help. I learned early on the value of asking for help. So far in my writing I have interviewed Park Rangers from Boston to Colorado, the Bosun in San Diego who takes care of the ships at the Maritime Museum. I asked them if I could get on a ship with no one there which led to me leaving my home at 4 am to be there by 7 and then the Bosun took me around every ship and answered every question.
I have had help from California Librarian/ Historian Kevin Starr, the brilliant journalist Patt Morrison(who actually handed me a manila envelope filled with information. I think there is no one who knows more about Los Angeles than her. I also called an old high school friend who is a top notch plastic surgeon to ask about injuries to the face and recovery times.
- Look it up! For those of you needing injury knowledge there is a book called “Maim Your Characters” by Samantha Keel. There is so much available on the internet and in books. One google search can lead you to what you need.
- Listen to everyone! I have dug deep into Los Angeles and California history, listened closely to anyone who was an expert on anything. The secret is to always listen, people around you know a tremendous amount. You might be surprised!
My expert on Native American art, Jackson Clark, has no idea how much I have learned from his newsletters–Seriously if you want to learn head to His blog and sign up for the newsletter as well. He has an easy going writing style and is a great story teller.
- I have learned that a lot of knowledge is available online and in facebook groups…Be honest about why you are there and see if they can help you. Though no one knows what the heck this thing is in my backyard! It is a foundation of some type I guess.
- Get your feet on the ground. Make sure you use both maps and local knowledge. Historical societies, even AAA will help you find where you need to be.
Besides hiking and traveling with Dad the best lesson was always to listen and ask. Sure, some of the inside info, back of the shop tours at the FBI and Scotland Yard and even Kings Mountain were because folks were fans but people love to be asked about what they know. When we were in, England we spoke to a priest/minister (I don’t remember the church) and got to look at original baptismal records of our ancestor’s baptism. Pretty cool.
I got help in Ireland by going to the historical society in a tiny town near where my ancestor’s home was. The woman couldn’t help me but a man who was doing research gave me directions–“Turn left then right then go straight til you see the cow…” kind of directions but we got where we were going.
For my current book there is a list on instagram in the above post of the things I have researched…I think it is kind of interesting.
I have also researched black powder and how to make it–always curious since the whole “salt peter, John, pins, Abigail.” refrain from 1776. That how ever got my passport sent to a back room in 2005 at the Honolulu Airport. 45 minutes later they decided I was no threat and we were on our way.
Remember to ask and to listen. You never know when you will need that knowledge.