Most writers will tell you that research can be as simple as doing an internet search or picking up the phone to talk to someone in the know. Or not.
Some writers look for the most realistic or complete knowledge on their subject that they can find. They become experts themselves.
There are writers who love research so much they never actually start their books.
Still others will say that research took their stories in totally different directions from where they originally intended.
Research just hasn't been that simple for me. I write about women in unusual occupations. Once I wrote about a woman who did repossession for a living. You know...like she drove a tow truck and snatched vehicles from people unwilling or unable to pay their loans.
It seemed a simple thing to call a local towing company to get some of the details of how the truck operated. But was I allowed to visit the office to ask a few easily answered questions? No.
But here's where serendipity comes in: our car broke down in our driveway. A first for us as my husband is a stickler for with car maintenance. We called a tow truck. As soon as it arrived I hot-footed it outside to see the truck in action. I asked all of my questions and got great, easy-to-understand answers and everything fell into place.
A couple of months later I discovered that a-- shall we say--group of individuals with questionable reputations and many, many years of legal problems behind them owned ALL of the tow truck businesses in town.
For that same book (Possessing Morgan - Harlequin Blaze) I wanted to ask some questions of a local collection agent for background. She got so excited about talking about her work that she proclaimed that she had enough to write a book and one day, she'd do just that. Some writers may have persevered, but I backed off. No way did I want her thinking that I'd "stolen" her stories.
Again serendipity stepped in and provided me with a reality show about repo men. It was their attitude I loved and that's what I brought to my heroine. Morgan Swann who is something of an adrenaline junkie who loves her work because it gives her the same thrill she had back when she was a car thief. (heh, told you I write different heroines)
I have more stories of failed research attempts but these were the best and oddly, all for the same book. Which is here if you're interested: