Guest Blogger: Colby Marshall!

Colby MarshallI’d like you to meet my friend Colby Marshall. (isn’t she adorable?) We first met blogging when I still lived in Mexico and Colby was in the middle of a challenge to blog every day for one year. I was immediately entranced with her obsession with hippopotami and spitting llamas, and I’m thrilled to feature her on Hoosblog!

Without further ado, here’s Colby!

Google for Writers

Google is probably both the best and the worst thing that ever happened to writers.  Particularly mystery and thriller writers.  Let me tell you why.

When William March wrote The Bad Seed, his classic thriller about a mother who begins to suspect her child of sinister tendencies, in 1954, he couldn’t simply pull out his iphone and call up the latest research on nature versus nurture.  He couldn’t run an online search for the hallmark signs of psychopathy to “write into” Rhoda Penmark.  Granted, he needn’t use the word ‘psychopath’ for everyone who picked up the novel to know that little girl was one conscienceless piece of work.  On the one hand, this is an ugly thought.  What would I do any time I needed to find the answer to how to poison someone without any investigator or M.E. being the wiser?  How would I figure out the best angle of a gunshot wound to make blood spatter in a certain direction?  And how would I know what sorts of criteria for these internet searches lands me on government watch lists?

And yet, one can’t help but feel sorry for March.  Why?  Because I know exactly how I would learn these answers if not for Google: the time consuming, tedious, and often frightening world of real-life interviews and experience.  If that’s the case, to have gotten so many of the chilling details of Rhoda’s personality right, he had to have either interviewed some creepy humans, or worse, been unfortunate enough to know a psychopath himself.  Then again, Google searches didn’t keep me from knowing one in person, but I digress…

That said, while Google has some amazing perks for writers, it might be the worst thing to happen to writers since liquor stores started closing on Sundays in most states.  After all, if agents, editors, critics, and fans can’t readily double-check whether or not your details about the Bigfoot sighting of Australia in 1914 are accurate or not, chances are, they will simply either trust that the author’s facts are correct or suspend any disbelief they might have for the sake of a good story.

Now, with the rise of search engines more powerful than Joan Rivers’ botox, novels like The Da Vinci Code that are set in the real world could never exist unless the settings and details used to forward the novel have been researched to a fault.  It’s a beautiful and terrible thing.  When authors can turn out a product that nails every detail and the Da Vinci Codes of the world are born, the difficulty level of the constraints skyrockets the quality of the thriller.  However, the majority of books fall somewhere short of that level of research perfection, so otherwise wonderful stories are put down, shunned by critics, and sometimes never read at all because of that little devil in the details.  I personally love research, since I feel it takes my work to a new level, but even so, I have my moments when I wish I were in the days of no Google or smartphones where I could imagine what I think I’d wear in sub-arctic temperatures,  and most people wouldn’t be the wiser.

What do you think: do the benefits of being able to Google almost anything outweigh the problems with it?


Thanks Colby! Now, everyone run off and buy her book!


Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status.

Front_Cover_Scan_Land_and_StineHer debut thriller, Chain of Command is about a reporter who discovers the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency.  Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013.

Chain of Command is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, other major e-readers, or in select independent bookstores.

Watch the official book trailer for Chain of Command. You can learn more about Colby and her books at

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. I loved this post and totally agree. Writers in the past had to look things up in different ways. Today’s technology makes it harder for writers to research because we need to sift through so much crap to get to the good stuff. But, if a writer is dedicated, the good stuff leads to good writing. Congrats on the book! Cheers!

  2. Thank you, Heiddi. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I agree- lots of times, I have to dig really hard to find the good (and factual!) research on Google. It’s both convenient and inconvenient at the same time.

  3. Kat Sheridan

    The other risk, of course, is that the writer ends up relying too much in wrong information. Or runs into too many conflicting pieces of research and has to decide which is right. Or errs in the way Jane Goodall recently did and lifts pieces of information almost verbatim, to the level of risking plagarism. But thank goodness, at least, you didn’t actually go out and shoot somebody to figure out blood spatter (at least I don’t THINK you did!)

  4. Katie

    Google is great for somethings, but as it has been said, There’s so much false information out there and if you are blindly looking for the research without any base knowledge it makes it almost impossible to know “is this for real?” Same with Wiki sites but this is neither the time nor the place for my rant on that subject.

    On the flip side of that though, Google makes researching “safe,” so that one can seek information without the awkwardness of trying to talk to friends/strangers about the skeletons that live in the closet.

  5. Kat- *wink wink* SURE I didn’t figure out the blood spatter that way… (Just kidding, just kidding! You set me up for that one!)

    Katie- You’re right. It’s definitely less awkward, though I will say I’m positive I’m not incredibly safe in the way that some searches might have me on government watch lists. I just hope that when they come for me, they’ll realize I’m just a lowly writer trying to find story details!

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