I even research things I think I know. For instance, my book Walking in the Dark takes place in Key West, a town I lived and worked in for three years as a journalist. Now, you'd think someone who beat the streets for stories wouldn't need to find out more about the place she's using as a modern setting. After all, I already know the legend of St. Mary Star of the Sea, what Goombay is and where you can get a good drink away from the crowds of Duval Street. I know Hemingway was as likely to visit Capt. Tony's as he was to go to Sloppy Joe's on Duval. I've flirted with Tony, a local character who passed away two weeks ago.
But memories fade and having a good street map and even, gasp, a tourist guidebook is invaluable for poking at the unsteady memory.
I use life as research, but I also research what's in my life. No matter how good my memory is for things like the feel of peanut shells underfoot at the Chart Room Bar at the Pier House, I know I'll forget whether Frances Street runs past the cemetery or not (it does).
This doesn't mean I'm held hostage by facts however. It is called imagination for a reason. Sometimes in fiction, when the facts don't fit, I massage them. Not so much that they become unbelievable, but enough so that they exist in that suspension of disbelief mode we enter when we read fiction.
The paranormal part of my book is researched as well. Of course, then the rules or lack thereof are broken and reformed into rules that work better for my character. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but it also keeps readers from saying "wait a second, they can't do that."
In ghostly spirits,
Photo by LinksmanJD.