I am often asked how I research my novels. I know that some writers prefer to do all their research up front before they begin writing the novel but I like to do some basic research when the idea for the novel occurs to me and while I flesh out an outline plot, and then start writing the first draft, while the research is incomplete.
Why this way? Because once I have the basics of the plot, characters and research I can’t wait to start the creative writing process with an urge to complete it as quickly as possible. In fact, I often wish I could brain dump straight on to the computer without having to touch the keyboard. I then continue the research process as I write. On the first draft I often don’t know the ending or even ‘who done it’ because the whole novel doesn’t come alive until Inspector Horton starts investigating and gets into all sorts of trouble as a result. Or if it’s a thriller like In Cold Daylight or In For The Kill, until something happens to my main character, the hero, which takes his life in a new and often dangerous direction.
As I create the characters, and the plot begins to fill out, it throws up more questions which need to be answered by research. So while I am writing the novel I am also researching it. This research is conducted by talking to experts, consulting the Internet (which is a real boon to writers) relevant books, and, of course, talking to my friends in the police service.
I enjoy the research element of writing a novel, but not as much as I enjoy the creative writing although often I will hit on a piece of research that can take my novel in a whole new and exciting direction. And sometimes stumbling across that one tiny piece of research can open up a whole raft of ideas for more than just the novel I’m working on but will throw up ideas for a new Inspector Horton or a new thriller..