Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How I Research My Books

So many readers write to ask me how I research the books I write set in 1880s San Francisco. While it’s true that researching can take up a lot of time and energy, I have to admit that it’s one of the things I most enjoy about writing the Sarah Woolson mystery series. In fact, I’m sure I probably collect far more information about nineteenth-century San Francisco than I will ever possibly be able to use.

A lot of people I meet at book signings, readings and talks, seem to think that I do most of my fact-finding online, which, I admit, is frequently the case. But the astonishing breath and scope of the Internet notwithstanding, nothing beats the fun and adventure of browsing for hidden gems in second-hand bookstores! And although I’ve found wonderful old books up and down the west coast, the best place to search for them is in all the intriguing bookstores to be found in the city by the Bay itself.

Walk down just about any street, and sooner or later you’ll come across a small, narrow, frequently cluttered little bookstore, where poking about for treasures is a grimy, but ever so rewarding adventure. If you don’t mind a bit of sneezing, and are willing to risk coating yourself with a fine layer of dust, you can spend hours happily browsing through row after row of books looking for just the right volume to add to your library. And what a thrill it is to happen across a tome that delivers exactly the information you need for a new book. After years of visiting every second-hand bookstore I could find, I’m happy to boast that I now own one of the best collections of old San Francisco books outside the San Francisco Library. A few of them are well over a hundred years old.

I don’t see how I could get by without my computer – and I love surfing the Internet – but give me a nice tricky research project, an old second-hand bookstore, and I’m happy as a clam and set for a fun day of treasure hunting!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home