17 Things: Bizarre Google Searches

What’s the difference between a snake and a legless lizard?  What are some common Russian street drugs?  What’s the proper way to butcher a goat?  How long does it take to suffocate someone?

Can weird Google searches (in the name of RESEARCH!) get someone involuntarily committed?

Lucky for most writers, the answer to that one is no, though perhaps these oddball searches may have landed some of us on government watchlists!  What critical info did the Swanky 17ers Google while researching their debuts?  Read on to find out before we clear our browser histories!


1)  I tried searching which car trunk’s muffler sounds the best. Never found a good enough response!

Jonathan Rosen, NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES, Skyhorse :: Fall 2017



2)  The most common things I searched while writing my debut:
– Song lyrics from the hip hop group Jurassic 5
– What are the different ways someone can die in space?

Scott Reintgen, THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS, Random House/Crown Children’s, Summer 2017


death in space 2


3)  For “Flight Risk,” I extensively researched if a plane’s ignition could be jimmied with a screwdriver.  Spoiler alert: it can!

Jennifer Fenn, FLIGHT RISK, MacMillan/Roaring Brook, July 18, 2017



4)  I searched for removing invasive plants, such as ivy and honeysuckle. Spoiler alert: you don’t remove the roots. 4 or 5 cuttings and they apparently don’t grow back. I also searched for how much stuff you have to steal to be charged with a grand larceny felony in Virginia. Answer = $200 worth.

Christina June, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, HarperCollins/Blink, May 9, 2017



5)  It might be a little more disturbing to list the things I DIDN’T need to google… knife fighting and stab wounds- my dad was a cop so I got that stuff growing up. He’s now a firefighter, which came in handy when I wanted to blow up a building with Middle Ages-level technology; my questions raised his eyebrows but didn’t get me put on an FBI watchlist. But once I determined HOW to make an explosion, I had to research how to make the materials and what exactly they would do, so I watched lots of videos on burning methanol and ethanol. When it came to googling how to make actual moonshine, however, the web controls my husband set up for the kids blocked the best sites.

Erin Beaty, THE TRAITOR’S KISS,  MacMillan/Imprint, June 20, 2017



6)  I searched for statistics of people who go missing and are never found in national parks/forests, and found that the numbers are more concentrated in areas that have higher Bigfoot sightings reported. Answer: Don’t go hiking alone! ;)-

Jennifer Park, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, March 14, 2017


creepy trail

7)  I searched for how much a shopping cart costs. I’ve never worked in a supermarket before, but my protagonist Margot Sanchez does so I needed to know the types of jobs she would do, how much things cost, how much she would get paid…. I will say that shopping carts are not cheap!

Lilliam Rivera, THE EDUCATION OF MARGOT SANCHEZ, Simon & Schuster, February 2017



8)  The investigator in my book is trying to figure out if the pilot may have suffered a medical emergency that caused the plane to crash, so I Googled autopsy results. I was also on Youtube a lot, taking simulated flight lessons. But I think my face-to-face interview with a flight instructor may have landed me on some kind of watchlist. I asked him how to crash a plane.

Amy Giles, OUR COSMIC SECOND, HarperTeen, Fall 2017


plane crash.jpg

9)  My hero is an Irish teen, and the Irish are known for their slang–some of which is quite X-rated. While searching for slang words or searching for the meaning of one someone suggested, I often came across the “dirty” version as the primary meaning. With my Google history, you would have thought I was writing erotica! :o

Shaila Patel, SOULMATED, Month9Books, January 2017



10)  One of my POV characters for the second book in my trilogy is a gambler, so I’ve spent more time than I want to remember looking up what kinds of games were popular in the mid-nineteenth century Europe and how to play them. (This, from someone who doesn’t gamble even in Vegas, which is only a few hours away) Answer: trente-et-quarante, rouge et noir (a precursor to blackjack), , and roulette were huge in German casinos. Also, several of the Russian authors were notorious gamblers–Dostoevsky virtually ignored his poor bride on their honeymoon to spend a small fortune at a casino in Germany.

Rosalyn Eves, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, Random House/Knopf, March 2017




11)  I spent a lot of time on Merriam-Webster.com looking up first known uses of words. Had to strip out several for my book set in the 1800s! But in terms of searches, I researched mind control, ballet terminology, and lots and lots of Italian food dishes.

Nikki Katz, STRINGS, Macmillan/Swoon Reads, September 2017



12)  One of the main characters in my book is obsessed with missing people who later returned, so I Googled that A LOT. The craziest scenario I found was a South African film director who, when tasked with his first big-budget film, experienced a breakdown and fled into the nearby jungle, where he lived with an indigenous tribe for a while and then snuck back on set to see the film finished by another director. Truly crazy stuff!

Carlie Sorosiak, IF BIRDS FLY BACK, HarperTeen, Summer 2017


missing person

13)  Victorian-era stage magic and magicians! There’s a whole cast of characters just waiting to be written about right there. I wish I could have incorporated more of the amazing people I learned about into the book.

Sarah Jean Horwitz, CARMER AND GRIT BOOK ONE: THE WINGSNATCHERS, Algonquin Young Readers, April 25, 2017


victorian magic

14)  I did a lot of research into boarding schools. At one point, my high school-aged daughter came home from school to find brochures all over the counter and me talking on the phone with an admissions rep. She was convinced I was sending her away to school! Not sure if she’s forgiven me for that one yet!

Katie A. Nelson, THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREP, Sky Pony/Sky Horse, Spring 2017


boarding school

15)  Some of my searches for THE DISAPPEARANCES included how to pick locks; the difference between “casket” and “coffin;” what a teenager’s bedroom looked like in the 1940’s; Keats, Dickinson, and Shakespearean verses; flowers that smell like bread when they bloom; and birds that do frightening things. Apparently northern shrikes are these cute little birds that kill their prey by viciously impaling them. (Yikes!!)

Emily Bain Murphy, THE DISAPPEARANCES, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Summer 2017


northern shrike

16)  My weirdest Google search for THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE: “Do snakes have eyelids?”

Kayla Olson, THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE, HarperTeen, Summer 2017



17)  I did a ton of science research for this book. Much of the selection process that Cassie goes through was taken from actual astronaut training that I was able to research via library books. But I had to do a few of out-of-the box searches, like: “list of potentially habitable exoplanets,” (there’s a whole Wikipedia entry, thank goodness), “rocket launch countdown procedures,” “how long does it take to get into space,” (surprisingly less time than most people’s morning commutes) and probably the most supervillain-like, “how to burn up the atmosphere” (spoiler alert: you can’t, but that didn’t stop me from trying.)

“How to destroy all life on Earth” probably ended me up on some watchlists, though.

Heather Kaczynski, DARE MIGHTY THINGS, HarperCollins/HarperTeen, Fall 2017




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