I’m crappy at research, because I very quickly get convinced I don’t know enough on a given topic to write anything. For instance, I had this awesome plan to write a novel set in the Caucasus until I confused my Avars with my Cherkessians, and that is never a good idea.
What works better for me is to consume a lot of information on topics I’m interested in. Sooner or later, something comes back up — to use an unsavory digestive metaphor that my detractors would surely find all too accurate.
In my first novel The Panama Laugh (which is in stores, I’m told, incidentally — holy shit!), I had read some things that inspired me in the first place — I’ll talk about those in a minute. But there are a lot of machines of one form or another in my zombie apocalypse, from molecular to nuclear-powered. When it came time to figure out if I’d biffed it on the technical details, most of the things I imagined I’d gotten wrong — or not as right as they could be — were the sort of thing I couldn’t find in books or online.
For those, I found people who knew something about the topic — when possible. The Panama Laugh features ships and small civilian airplanes and a blimp and a zeppelin and the Panama Canal, and a castle, and guns…lots and lots of guns. Information about small civilian airplanes was provided by two friends who are pilots. I’m lucky enough to know a graduate of the California Maritime Academy who helped immensely in figuring out where to put the bilge bay and what Shaft Alley would sound like. I already knew a fair amount about guns, but Alan Beatts at Borderlands Books knows a whole lot more. Crime writer Christa Faust knows a thing or two about Lucha Libre, which figures briefly in The Panama Laugh. These people and others were extremely generous with their time and expertise.