Crossing Bedlam required that I do something different in both preparation and writing. As a fantasy author, I never had to do more than look up various weapons and any pre-existing monsters I was using. Half the time I didn’t have to find more than a picture since the magic system was mine, the world was mine, and the characters were mine. Windemere is all in my head, so ‘research’ resembles meditation or sleeping while sitting up. Yes, that second one has been assumed at times.
The Shattered States is the real world after a disaster or whatever you want to call what happened. So I can’t go making up states, cities, landmarks, and creatures. There are the Half-Deads and escaped zoo animals, but everything has to be in the real world. I had to look up the workings of a paintball gun, various vehicles, weapons of all types, clothing, and even religion for one scene. These weren’t even the most difficult pieces and I’ll tackle the big one in a bit.
One thing I learned in regards to research is that it helps to do as much beforehand, which is a duh. Yet, one should be ready to pause or find a break to look up a spontaneous addition. For example, there is a part where remote controlled drones are used in a contest. I had to look up pictures of these and figure out if they were a viable tool for the situation. This was not planned, so it caused a delay in that day’s writing. Not a bad thing since I know what to look for and have some info if I want to use them again.
The hardest part of Crossing Bedlam was geography. Need a new city or landmark in Windemere? Listen to music and create one around the scene that I’m writing. Need a new city or landmark in the Shattered States? Gotta get my tush to Google Maps and scroll along Interstate-80 or wherever the action is to find something that fits what I’m looking for. There’s a scene in Reno, NV that had me searching for any kind of warehouse or mall structure just off I-80. I stumbled onto a very cool area in Indiana that worked as a protected hospital, but I’m forgetting the name. All of this took days of zooming, scrolling, and switching between Google Maps and Google Earth. These areas had to found again at the point of writing too, so I could get the descriptions close and decide on how the action would work.
And it got more difficult the further I got from Long Island. That’s my area, which I know without the help of a map. I’ve been to New Jersey and Pennsylvania too. After that, I’m in the dark about cultures and specifics. I figure I can get away with some of it since those would be different after 10 years of anarchy. Yet I still needed to know about the terrain and what you can find in the regions. Cleveland, OH was a headache because I couldn’t find much about the interior of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. The zoo map made the later action easier at least.
Now, many people would say I shouldn’t write about areas that I’ve never visited. Well, that kind of kills the story, doesn’t it? Can’t really make the long trip either with the kid and not much in the way of spendable funds. So I have to work with what I can get my hands on, which is a lot of maps. Is it perfect? No, but I calm myself by saying that I’m working with an imperfect world. Still, I do hope to make things easier for myself in future books. I think there’s one more cross country adventure, but it’ll be much different than this one.
So, what was the biggest amount of research you’ve done for a story?