I am asked on a regular basis how I come up with my ideas. Pass. I just do. So easier question - how do I tackle my research? This may seem like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. Sorry, Granny. Let's start at the very beginning...
Google is my friend.
Nope, let me go back one more step. I divide my research into two parts - my characters and the plot.
Let's look at my character development. I write gay romance. Having got rid of my desire to write Barbara Cartland, I look at issues that affect the LGBT community. This means that I read the gay press everyday, mainly through links on my Twitterfeed like Pink News and Gay Star News, but also articles through the BBC, The Guardian and Huffington Post. I look at the issues that affect them on a daily basis. I sometimes wonder if my plots are far-fetched, and then I read the press. Let's face it, the American elections have provided daily outrages for the LGBT community. And then there's the Church leaders in the UK declaring equal marriage is grotesque and the French mayor's warning of paedophilia and polygamy if gay marriage is legalised.
What are my other sources of information for my characters?
I also talk to my friends, bi, gay and trans. You may think talking to gay people is the way to gain insight into the psyche of gay people, something like studying serial killers or people with disabilities. Yes - and no. Tell me something, are you like your brother, your neighbour, or your best mate? Do you have the same opinions as them? No? Quelle surprise. Gay people aren't all the same. There is not one voice for all. Think Neil Patrick Harris and Rupert Everett. Hmmm, not the same then. We don't have the Stepford gay man, or the cloned epileptic, or identikit black man. If you ask a gay man for their opinion that's what you get - theirs. And all the prejudices that go with their life experience. Just don't make the mistake that I did and think you are speaking for all of the gay community.
Then you have your plot... Google is my friend. I love Google *pets*. I wish I could have been writing in the era of travelling for research. But now all the information is at my fingertips. One of things I try and do is look for academic information rather than just Wikipedia. I think that is a hangover from my degree. I was researching brain injury and stumbled across eminent doctors having a bust-up on how to bring trauma victims around from comas. It was like reading Yahoo. These doctors know how to swear!
If you've read any of my books you will know I often have a religious theme of bigotry. I'm a theologian and a Christian, it comes naturally to me. I also have about twenty textbooks going dusty. They need to be trotted out every so often.
So there we go... how I research my characters and my plot. I hope Granny hasn't choked on the eggs and you're not asleep yet. If you are, sleep well.