From time to time, people argue about whether writers can evoke something they've never experienced. I have friends in the writing community who take classes in how to shoot a gun, sign up to go rock climbing, and (of course) travel to faraway places in order to write realistically about a subject.
We know, though, that writers must also use their imagination to create scenes and characters they can't actually visit: battles are pretty much out for me, as is being a teen-aged boy abandoned by his mother. I have to imagine them, like Shakespeare, who created Juliet without ever having been a young Italian girl.
Loser, the protagonist in KILLING SILENCE, (http://tinyurl.com/a8gyqjd) is homeless, mentally fragile, and living in Richmond, Virginia. I spent time in Richmond, so I have a sense of where things are in the Fan, how far one would walk to get to this place or that. I have, in my lifetime, enough experience with mental stress to imagine being overcome by life's trials. Homelessness was a stretch. I've never in my life been truly hungry, never slept outside, never had to deal with the people (homeless and not) who threaten a woman with no place to hide.
I was asked at a workshop if I had to "dumb down" the dialogue, since Loser is homeless. Hmmm. An assumption that homeless people are all stupid?
Interestingly, I recently met someone who was homeless for some time as a young person. She's intelligent, articulate, and amazingly healthy, physically and mentally, considering the life experiences she's had. As we talked, I found that my imagination had served me pretty well as I wrote Loser and her companions. She mentioned that once she was able to have a normal life again with a home and family, she became, as she termed it, "a control freak." Having had a life that was out of control, she's compelled to make sure everything is right, at least in her mind.
Totally understandable. And in addition, it's going to help a lot with Book #2!