One of the basic tenets of writing fiction is to "write about what you know." I try to do that. My novels take place on the west side of Cincinnati, where I've spent most of my life and, although I "fictionalize" the area, I know it well. The characters I create are composites of people I've known, met or just come into contact with through the years; I feel almost as if I could run into them when I'm in Westwood because I know them.
Having written that, I don't mean to undermine the importance of doing research. I think it's crucial to incorporate things I don't know into my fiction. When I read a book, I like to learn something new; when I write, I like to learn too and I want to pass that on to my readers. That's where research comes in, gathering information from outside sources: books, the internet, etc., small details and facts that add to the story. But sometimes, in order to create believable fiction, that's not enough for me.
For years, friends had urged me to join Face Book but I held back. I assumed that the social network was nothing more than a "gossip" session online. But, as I wrote my second novel, something happened to change my mind. I needed to have one of my characters locate an old friend so I decided to have him join Face Book. I phoned one of my friends and asked him to "walk me through how to join and maneuver in Face Book." He did his best to explain it to me but it just wasn't clicking in. I realized that the only way I was going to be able to accurately and realistically write about my character's experience was to experience it myself and that's how I came to join Face Book. I'm glad I did.