Best-selling One Day author David Nicholls used Google Street View to help him depict cities he was not familiar with in his latest novel, Us.
For his first novel, A Question of Attraction, Nicholls used 'a notebook, pen and camera' to build background, but for his latest, fourth novel, he used Street View.
Writing in The Guardian, Nicholls recalls the experience of researching his first novel, "I walked the streets from the station down to the sea, found a spot that felt right and took a great many photographs of quite staggering dullness."
12 years on in Us he wanted to have his chief character rush towards Bologna airport for a Madrid flight, to be ultimately reunited with his estranged son.
"I have never visited Bologna but a few clicks of the computer mouse bring me a thousand images of the railway station, inside and out," writes Nicholls.
"The online website has already told me the train’s arrival time on the day of the fictional events, and a few more clicks will bring up a map of the fastest taxi route to the airport.
"Zooming in on the station, I can take the hand of the little unisex figure in the right-hand corner, drop it in the ticket hall and, in view mode, click through the doors and find a taxi."
On his website, Nicholls describes Us as 'a tragi-comedy about marriage, parenthood, travel, art and science.' The writer’s break-through novel, the romantic comedy One Day, has sold in excess of five million copies.
There was a five-year hiatus between the publication of One Day and Us which appeared late last year. Nicholls previously told The Guardian that he wanted to get it right, and "not write the disappointing follow-up."
He wrote scripts for the TV comedy series Cold Feet in 2000, and he has also written screen-plays for the classics, Great Expectations, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Thomas Vintenberg's much-acclaimed new version of Far from the Madding Crowd.