Before the holidays, I embarked on a research trip/family and friend visit to Wisconsin. The research portion took me to Plainfield, Wisconsin, the location of my novel. I stayed in the one motel in town, a creepy 10-room place called the R&R. All guests had to register at the Mobil station down the road, and the R&R shared a parking lot with Spice, a franchised trucker-porn shop. Believing I would be killed that very night, I parked my rental call three doors down from my room, #7. The room was dingy, but livable for one night. As I sat on the bed taking off my snow-covered boots, I looked down a saw a purple press-on nail on the carpet. Classy.
During my 24 hours in Plainfield, I scoped the town for more literary locations, as well as landmarks. I found Gein's property out on a lonely wind-swept road containing a field of tall pine trees. I also found the Plainfield Cemetery and the location of Mary Hogan's bar. My last stop before heading back to Milwaukee was meeting with former Wautoma mayor Marv Wagner. We had a three-hour chat over breakfast about local history, politics, and folklore of the area. Wagner has proved an invaluable resource for the book.
So was the trip worth it? I would say yes. But I am in this never-ending mental debate about whether to invent the details to fit the story or try to do as much research as possible and match the story/setting to real-life? Any opinions?