I’m a visual creature. Maps, pictures, and videos help me write. The first story I tried to write came from a map I hand drew at age twelve. Images of all kinds inform me about how to describe a setting. They also let me visualize movement, obstructions, and actions that would be impossible in that location.
When I wrote Midnight at the Sultan’s Palace, I needed to envision the inside of a mansion in New Orleans. I spent way too much time researching the house (which is an apartment building in real life). The visuals I found from rental sites, and historical archives online were still invaluable. My process gave me a clear picture of how the characters and horrors moved through the house.
I’ve used the same process in Fantastic America. ASAIC Daniel Forrester spends a few days in a ferry terminal as a base of operations to fight zombies. I started with Google Earth, got some basic facts from Wikipedia, and then found youtube videos from people who had been there. I may never visit that ferry terminal in my life, but I know the layout and described it for the story.
Authors find inspiration all around us, and I’m no different. I have worked out a system that lets me find real-world locations and explore them as well as I can from a distance. Visiting in person is always my favored investigation method, but I haven’t been to Rome or Athens in over thirty years. The internet is the next best way to refresh my memory and fill in the blanks that have developed over time. It works for me, and if I’ve done my work right, for my readers, too!