I actually like doing research for a book. I get to learn new things, experience new adventures, maybe learn something more about another language. It’s all good, and it’s all a part of making sure the world you create for your characters is real—authentic. I’ve been researching one book (Disobedience) for some time. I studied the city of Rome the changes in Rome from 1880 to 1920, and this year I’ll be studying the region of southern France, in particular Aix en Provence and Avignon.
It isn’t enough to read, and certainly not enough to look at web sites. You need to get to know the places where your characters will walk, and the things your characters do. You need to make the experience of a place seem real, and if the place and the experiences seem real and your characters are compelling then the story seems real, too. For Bosworth, as much to add realism as anything else, I used the actual weather, sun and moon positions and so forth for each day—hour by hour—taken from weather history near the coordinates I’d assigned for the fictional town.
Remember: fiction is by its nature a lie, and people know this. The key is making your lie seem real—in some ways more real than “normal” life. The characters in your books should seem real to you, too.