One of the questions she gets asked most often is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Her ideas come from questions. She's naturally curious! Her poop book came from seeing a suit of armor and wondering how knights went to the bathroom. But what really motivated her to get started on researching this question was her youngest son. He was very mischievous as a little kid, and he stopped up the toilet right before a party, and she wondered what people did back in the day before they had flushing toilets.
How she does research:
- Read: get your hands on as many books and articles as you can.
- Experience: if you can't go to Africa to research animals, go to the zoo.
- sight (looking at art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian)
- sound (go to textiles mills to listen to the actual mill)
- touch (trying on period pieces like clothing slaves had to wear (such as linsey-woolsey))
- taste (ex. cinchona/quinine for malaria)
- smell (visiting the old sewers of Paris)
- Talk to Experts: She just visited the National Museum of Health and Medicine (in Silver Spring, MD) yesterday to visit a forensic anthropologist. (Her next book is on poisons. She came upon this topic from what she learned in her previous research (ex. green dye came from arsenic).)
Fun fact: Sarah used to work at Sesame Street (in the 80s) as an editor and it was the funnest place to work. Her husband jokes that she uses her married name (Sarah Willson) for work she's not proud of (like SpongeBob!). Sarah uses various pen names depending on the work she's doing.