|From a Native American re-enactor|
Does it help a writer to experience elements used in their novels?
Well, yes, obviously, but let's not get too carried away. Stuart Aken didn't actually travel to Mars before writing his SF novels, and Penny Grubb doesn't go around murdering people for her Crime fiction, though she does walk the mean streets of Hull and the other environments used for her settings.
Past lives, however, do figure large. April Taylor mines hers as a professional singer, as does Karen Wolfe as a dog training organiser. Interesting that both these careers have led to writing Cosy, or not-so-Cosy Crime.
Linda Acaster is a believer in hands-on research; her previous life included being a Native American re-enactor which led to her Beneath The Shining Mountains historical, and indirectly back to Dark Age Britain for her Torc of Moonlight trilogy. Getting close up and personal with her research is something she regularly blogs about.
Catch her recent posts on a visit to the Jorvik Viking Festival, and Medieval Glazing using both horn and oiled linen.
YouTube is a mine of useful information for any novelist, as was proven during the UK's recent 'Beast of the East' weather episode which not only kicked off a good range of story ideas but led Linda to a video exploring the much worse mirror storm The Great Freeze of 1963. Despite the event not even being a lifetime ago, the lack of skyscrapers, the use of steam trains, the transport links, and people's mode of dress makes it seem almost a dystopian age, a far cry from the emerging youth culture of the Swinging Sixties that history usually highlights.
And there's an entire novel in that observation alone.