"Fiction is about stuff that's screwed up." —Nancy Kress
Someone commented recently that researching the dark things must be terrible. She was right. It is terrible when you consider that research is based on reality.
Red Tide's research taught me about Human Remains Detection dogs and the difficult but magnificent job they do every day. In The Missings I learned about the vast number of people waiting for an organ transplant, and the fact that many of those people are removed from the list not because they received an organ, but because they died while waiting.
In The Sacrifice I learned more about Santeria than I ever wanted to know and I certainly would never want to embrace it in my private life. The book I'm working on now, tentatively titled Trafficked, deals with the horror of human trafficking. While Santeria is a choice, being trafficked is most certainly not—which makes the research that much more oppressive, frustrating, thought-provoking, and infuriating.
But here's where fiction comes in: I can make the bad guys pay. I can create a satisfactory outcome that sadly, reality just can't achieve on a regular basis. I can help a character find his or her personal strength. They don't always have to be the victim.
In fiction, I can share information that might help open others eyes as it did mine, without making readers feel completely depressed and unequipped.
And no animals are ever killed.
It's all better with friends.