One of the hardest things about writing a book is the research. It really can be difficult to find people willing to talk to you about the subject you want to write about. Especially when you're not a well known author.
I do my best to research a topic thoroughly. Sometimes there are fantastic websites that give me exactly what I need, but most often it makes more sense to talk to an expert so you can get the information that no one writes down - the really interesting stuff that makes you sound like you know what you're talking about. I have found that many organisations or people don't respond to an email, and often I need information from people in the United States so I can't easily drop by.
With the manuscript I'm currently writing, which is book 1 in The Flanagan Sisters series, I got lucky. The story is partially set on an oil refinery and there's an oil refinery about twenty minutes down the road. What is even better, one of my mum's friends has worked there for thirty years. Bingo! I gave him a call and the other day I went over to his place to chat.
He was an amazing source of information. He drew me process flow diagrams, a rough diagram of the plant, told me what each unit was called and then helped me with specific plot points of the story (I can't tell you what because it will be a spoiler!). He described the smells on the plant, the noises things made and what things looked like. It's all that sensory information that documents really don't convey. It did mean I had to rewrite a couple of sections and adjust a few ideas I had but I'm sure what I have now is accurate. He even offered to check the manuscript, so I sent it off to him this afternoon after I'd finished updating it.
I really wish I knew someone to chat to for every thing I need to research! The next book involves a software billionaire and an artist so if anyone knows someone I can interview, leave me a comment! 🙂