Perhaps "research" doesn't sound like something magical, but I'm here to tell you it can be. Some of the most magical moments of my life have been directly related to research I was doing for a book at the time. Really, truly!
Right now I have two projects fighting for space on top of our dining table, which also sports a few mugs of tea, a container of hot sauce, and somebody's math textbook. Both manuscripts are for the MMGR (Marvelous Middle-Grade Reader), but one is a fantasy called The Wrinkled Crown, coming from HarperCollins in November, and the other is a historical novel, Cloud & Wallfish, coming from Candlewick in 2016.
One is set in a world I made up myself--the other set in Berlin in 1989. So you'd be tempted to think that I, fueled by tea, lolled back in my chair and pulled the made-up world for The Wrinkled Crown right out of thin air, and then locked my imagination away in a safe-box while gathering the facts that fuel Cloud & Wallfish. But no! Both stories, the fantasy and the historical novel, are the product of both imagination and research.
Let's start with the obvious: It is true that writing a historical novel requires a lot of research. Yes, it does. But I find that that research feels more like a treasure hunt than anything else. I happened to live in East Berlin in 1989 and had hundreds of pages of notes on daily life behind the Iron Curtain.
Here's the funny thing: when I write a novel about magic, I do a huge amount of research, too! For The Wrinkled Crown, for instance, I read a very long book from the nineteenth century about instrument making.
And sometimes, while doing research, magic happens. I wrote the first draft of A Box of Gargoyles when I was living far from France, which means I did a lot of choosing locations by means of internet maps (which are pretty magical things, themselves).
I wrote that chapter thousands of miles away from Fontainebleau, but I really, really, really wanted to put my actual hand on the actual Salamander Rock, just to convince myself that such a wonderful thing existed. So I dragged my entire family--husband, children, and ninety-year-old father-in-law--out into the woods to find that one particular boulder. (You can imagine the dialogue as we tromped through the woods: "Just a little further. The map says this way. No, through these bushes. No, over here!" "Mooooooommm!") But eventually the kids were shouting and pointing, and there it was, the real-life Salamander Rock, looking exactly as salamanderish as a Salamander Rock could possibly look.