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Thanks to the internet, researching for our manuscripts is now easier than ever. At the click of a button, I have been able to jet off a message to deepest Haida Gwaii to learn about their ancient death Gods, and send requests for dusty, mysterious books that have been sitting on a warehouse shelf for years, just waiting for someone to need them. So with all of these resources at my fingertips, I was pretty surprised when I discovered how hard it was to find some of the most basic information I would be needing.

Some readers may know that my in-progress novel, Chasing Shadows, features characters based on obscure and mostly historical personifications of death. So my first task when I started writing was to find a list of figures, cultures and ancient religions from which I could draw inspiration. Sounds simple enough, right? I thought it would be as easy as typing in “personifications of death” or “death Gods” into google and watching the results flow in. I was wrong. After half an hour or so of frustrated googling, I had only come up with a handful of possible leads. It seemed to me that if you had a specific figure in mind, there was usually at least a little information to cover it, but no one had put together an encyclopedia of death – or at least, not one that was easy to find.

When I searched for "Death Encyclopedia", this is what I was expecting to find. Image by Judit Klein

When I searched for “Death Encyclopedia”, this is what I was expecting to find.
Image by Judit Klein

But I wasn’t too disappointed as this gave me a legitimate excuse to visit a few book shops and libraries which, I must admit, made me feel like a bit more of a “proper” author. Eventually, I was able to find a book in print that had just what I needed – a list of death Gods and a little background information on each of them, along with a bibliography of other sources. After struggling online, I was sure that something so perfect didn’t exist, but here it was.

There were several other challenges on the road to researching my novel, but after having such success with my Death Encyclopedia I had learned not to rely entirely on the internet. I went outside my normal comfort zone in front of the computer and started interviewing people in the know, visiting cultural museums and sending out messages to complete strangers. The internet was still hugely valuable for filling in the gaps of my knowledge, but since I stopped relying on it as my only source, I’ve been able to discover new angles on my research that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.