Despite popular belief, not all research can be done via Google or Wikipedia. Though at first I loathed the idea of searching through libraries and making anonymous phone calls, it turned out to be a welcoming break from the solitary work of writing.
A single phone call was all it took to schedule an interview with the headmaster at the all-boys Christ School on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina. It didn’t matter that I was an unknown, unpublished writer with no credentials. Time and time again, I was pleasantly surprised by how willing people were to take a few minutes out of their busy day to lend a helping hand.
My research included more than a few embarrassing phone calls in order to get my facts straight. During one call to an industrial equipment reseller, my rudimentary questions to try and learn the specifics of describing a crane led to an uncomfortable silence on the other end of the phone. Finally the sales rep asked: “You’re not actually planning on operating a crane, are ya?”
The end result is a few lines of dialog that is far from memorable:
“All’s we have is that little Insley we’re using on the south wing.
Its fifty-foot boom wouldn’t reach halfway, and we don’t have any extensions or counterweights.”
It was more luck than persistence that led me to answer my research involving helicopters. In the post-9/11 world, you can’t just walk into a bookstore and come out knowing how to operate an aircraft. I was visiting my third bookstore when I happened to cross paths with an ex-Air Force pilot while browsing the aviation section. This led to several lengthy phone conversations in which he answered all my questions. He was more than willing to help to avoid one of his biggest pet peeves—yet another story fraught with credibility gaps.