For most of my books a modicum of research has been required. Not so much as to spend weeks buried within the virtual libraries of the world, yet just enough to spark my creativity. Of course, research comes in many forms. Sometimes, just asking people’s opinions about a subject can generate a plethora of ideas and points-of-view. TWEET, my satire about marketing and the demise of the individual, was that kind of project. The book was about how individuals deal with their lack of say – so why not ask the people involved? I asked everyone I encountered while writing the book. What could be more relevant than that?
Then there’s the more direct approach. When I was writing DUTCHING THE BOOK, a story about horse playing in 1960’s Brooklyn, I reached out to the people that could give me the best perspective – the people who had actually lived it. The story is about my father, who was a world-class horseplayer, and his cronies. I thought I knew everything but something was missing. So I invited my dad out for dinner and asked his ex-best buddy to join us. After a lifelong friendship, they hadn’t spoken in years. Following an awkward silence, I placed a tape recorder and a bottle of vodka on the table. Then the stories flew – stories I had never heard, life changing stories, comical stories, betting scheme stories, caper stories and personal stories. What I had learned in that evening formed the core of the book.
My preparation and research for THE BIG EMPTY was quite different. Although the story takes place in post-911 New York, THE BIG EMPTY is a mystery that is based on American history. So I researched New York history, the Dutch-English wars, Wall Street, New York City bureaucracy and New York City landmarks. I wandered through the canyons of Wall Street and spent days visiting the physical sites where the story unfolds. I trudged through New York City bureaucracy to get a first-hand feel for the process that my lead character would endure. I saw and felt what he would see. Additionally, I acquired a new understanding of Native American history. All of these experiences play a strong role in the storyline – I had the fabric, now it was up to me to weave together a captivating and credible story.
So for each book, the approach and research varied significantly, from casual conversation to intense study and homework, yet each played an essential role in developing the compelling storyline.