There is nothing so perfect as researching a book’s setting by actually going there. That happened to me by accident a couple of days ago. My aunt ran away to join the circus back in the 1960s. My lovely aunt has now gone to the bigtop in the sky, but a minor character in the WIP runs off and joins a circus, just like my Aunt Linda did all those years ago.
While in Florida this past week, we planned to visit the great circus museum in Sarasota. I hit the jackpot, research wise, by going there. But the real find was on the way to Sarasota. Unexpectedly, I saw a sign that said Gibsonton and urged my husband to “get off the highway now!” He’s a nice guy, so he did.
Gibsonton is the place in where some of the more curious circus folk wintered. They would receive special permits to keep goats and monkeys and other exotic animals on their front lawns.
We saw some of that, and more. I took notes on everything. Al shot film. It was a fortunate find, a little bit of extra luck. I already had Gibsonton in my notes. I had looked at maps and researched it on the net and found photos and made up a setting that wasn’t actually too far from the real thing. But there is nothing like visiting a place yourself, walking its streets, seeing its local color.
So the weekend away was great, but the research was better! I hadn’t planned any research or writing at all. I had planned a break. But this turned out to be perfect because my characters begin Act Two in–of course–Gibsonton.