There are animals involved (of course.) And the animals scenes are the easiest ones for me to write, because I've been around animals all my life and they just come naturally. Scenes with dogs, cats, horses usually roll right off the keyboard without much effort, and are some of my favorite things to write.
But when the plot involves something I'm not entirely acquainted with, I want the facts to be correct. It's all well and good to say you are writing fiction, and can make anything up. But for me as a writer it's important to be not only plausible, but also to have the scenes be as truthful as possible, especially in a contemporary tale.
So I consulted some experts in the field this time. People who could answer my questions - such as could this really happen? Where and how might this take place?
Most of the time, this is a lot of fun, because when you explain that you are a children's author, and show them proof (a bookmark, a published book) they think it's totally cool and open up to you about everything.
But not always. I talked to a clerk at a fast food/gas station combo that doubles as a Greyhound bus stop in a small town. He was extremely paranoid about answering any of my questions, but even that was helpful information ;-)
I consulted with a probation officer in the state of California about crimes and sentences and phone calls from jail.
I talked to several wonderful young men and women in military recruiting offices, who filled me in on general details from the Army, Navy, and Air Force programs, and who seemed very appreciative that I wanted to get things right.
And I had a long conversation with a very generous Fire Chief about possible consequences of boys playing with fire and getting into trouble.
I loved doing this research, and I took lots of notes. Afterwords, when I sat down to actually write the scenes, I felt informed and satisfied that my words rang true, because even though the plot line involved things outside my area of expertise, at least now I had the facts. And it also gave me confidence to tackle subjects a little out of my comfort zone in the future, because there are always experts in every field.
Have you done research for your writing? Did you enjoy it? Tell us about it.