In the age of the internet, information is at our fingertips. Most internet users have found themselves falling down the Google rabbit hole and clicking related links until they come out of the trance at 3 a.m. and find themselves staring at a page about historical figures who died from laughing too hard. Writers have this same problem, only worse. Young adult author Kim Savage did a lot of research for her debut novel, After the Woods. The book centers around a high school junior named Julie. In flashbacks, she recalls the day that her best friend Liv was attacked by a paroled predator. Julie jumped in to help, and Liv ran, leaving Julie to fend for herself for a harrowing 48 hours while the man hunted her through the woods. Savage, a former reporter, is no stranger to research. But during the writing process, she found herself searching for information that, she jokes, she would die if her mother saw. Here, she’s compiled funniest, most terrifying, and awkward of her searches.
The quirky habit of the former reporter is thinking someone is going to demand to see your research at any moment. So I save every bit of source material, which makes for a bookmark list a mile long and a history that never gets cleared. While writing After the Woods, I noticed that some of the searches I performed could land me on a federal watch list. Okay, apparently that’s not hard these days. Maybe they just make me your strangest neighbor. You decide.
1. Slaughter of the innocents. Really happen?
The answer is yes or no, depending on your take on Bible stories. This one’s loaded.
2. Euphemisms for male masturbation
Despite options like “abusing your wicked stick” and “yanking your plank,” I went with my own: waxing the dolphin. I guess I felt sentimental
3. PETA’s wackiest stunts
This relates to an old, dropped subplot. If I could crowbar more complicated subplots into my novels, I would. #achillesheel
4. Causes of sociopathic behavior
Getting to know Donald, getting to know all about Donald…
5. Doctor Faustus summary
Helpful in understanding my main character Julia’s pact with Paula, the ambiguously-intentioned reporter.
6. Warning signs of narcissism and appearance obsession
As dangerous as Googling “those shooting pains up your arm.” You back away from the keyboard, thinking, “Oh god, I have this!”
7. Do chat rooms still exist?
This led to the funniest page ever, where blogger Sara Bressler goes into chat rooms and has exchanges with, as she describes them, the sole remaining users of chat rooms: “dirty birdies.” Sample exchange:
8. Can you hack a chat room?
Can you peel a label off a can?
9. What is labiaplasty?
I wish I’d never asked. THANKS, GOOGLE.
10. How to disappear completely and never be found
I’m not sure why I needed to know this for the story, but if I disappear at some point, it should become clear.
Kim Savage is a former reporter who received her Master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University. She worked as a business journalist, pitching story ideas along the lines of “When Murder Kills Property Values.” You get the idea. Today, Kim lives in a town north of Boston, Massachusetts, near the real Middlesex Fells Reservation of After the Woods. Born directionally challenged, the fear of getting lost in that lovely, dark forest lives close to her skin. She and her husband have three children, each of whom beg to appear in her books. They shouldn’t.