Creating a whole new world is one of the things I love about starting a new book.
The Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral
I love that moment when a story is forming in my head. The whole world is my oyster.
And yes, I admit food and wine are often involved in the initial creation process….
The past few weeks while I have been working on my new book have been particularly fascinating. It always involves lots of daydreaming as I think of plots and characters, but one of the most enjoyable parts of starting a new story is the setting.
When and where will my characters live in this new world?
Apart from, “Where do you get your ideas from?” that has to be the question writers are most asked.
And the answer is, for me, yes, actually.
Quite a lot.
Pinterest, Google, Youtube
Even before I put finger to keyboard I scour Pinterest, seeking ideas for locations, looking for photographs of places and characters as I build my storyboard. This is the one I’ve created for A Harrington Christmas (it’s a working title!)
Mostly, after that, it will be diving into Google as questions crop up? What is the temperature in Nantucket in March? What is the time difference between Paris and Singapore? Is there already a restaurant in London called any of the half a dozen names I’ve come up with — and yes to every one. Continue reading →
There are a couple of months to go before we need to start to panic, but the groans are undoubtedly justified.
The children have only just gone back to school, the supermarket aisles are full of the momentary distraction of fake pumpkins and Halloween costumes, but they are already piling up the Christmas chocolate. (I took these two photographs just this morning.) And greetings cards are on sale for those organised enough to get them written before they get swept up in the season.
As anyone researching the Regency period knows, the rake — the real Regency rake — was dangerous, unscrupulous and sometimes even a vicious womaniser.
I am very sorry, dear reader, if I have shattered your illusions.
Many of us like the fantasy of “taming” a bad boy, but most of us know in our hearts that it is nigh on impossible. Not quite impossible, of course. There are exceptions to the rule, but these are probably as rare in real life as the number of real live dukes in existence (which may be material for another story, another time).
There is always something to research for a new book. Often it seems obvious — military history for instance, when one sets a book around the Battle of Waterloo; or costume details for the period.
We have to invent a history for each of our characters. It may not feature in the actual book, but it is very necessary. As my latest book has proved. Continue reading →
When we read fiction set in the Regency period, we often come across references to sea journeys but, usually, they’re over pretty quickly. On one page, we’re at Dover or Harwich or Falmouth. A paragraph or two later, we’ve arrived at our destination and the story continues. (Not in all fiction, of course. Who could forget Mary Challoner’s horrendous cross-Channel trip in Heyer’s Devil’s Cub? Still, at least Vidal proffered a basin at the vital moment.)
Nowadays, our ships have GPS and radar and even engines! 😉 So this modern figure, staring out over a slightly stormy sea, has little to fear from going on board. But what was it really like, making a sea voyage on one of the Regency’s relatively tiny and fragile sailing craft?
I’ve always been fascinated by dedications in books. There’s the intriguing possibility that they are clues to something hidden. Probably private. Possibly intense. Potentially the whole reason for the book. Thrilling or what?
This is the second time I’ve returned to the subject in this blog. First time round I wrote about a range of books, only some of which I knew really well. No, let’s be honest. One of which I detested.
This time I’m writing about one of my great loves. Twice, under pressure of space, I’ve cleared out copies from my bookshelf, believing that I wouldn’t need to read them again. Twice I’ve bought new copies.
This is a dedication which intrigues me enormously. I was reminded of it by the recent sad news that Tim Pigott-Smith has died. He played the ambiguous and haunting villain Merrick in the BBC’s epic series about the end of the Raj, The Jewel In the Crown.
Sadly, today is the last of our series on research. But we’re finishing with a bang!
In delectable medieval York.
Today, we welcome Pamela Hartshorne, a York specialist. Her credentials are beyond doubt — she has a PhD in medieval studies — but she manages to wear her research very lightly. She has written dozens of books for Mills & Boon, a publisher that definitely doesn’t want dry background material to get in the way of the love story between hero and heroine.
Every time someone asked whether she’d use her research in a book, her answer was always no.
Until, one day …
One day, no finally became yes. Pamela turned to writing historical novels set in her beloved York, where she’d done her academic research. Was she taking a risk? Could she make the jump from Mills & Boon romance to mainstream timeslip? Here’s her story . . .
Research may be useful … or not
John Speed’s late 16th century map of York
By the time I sat down to write a historical novel, I was feeling pretty confident. I’d already written over 50 books for Mills & Boon, so I figured I knew something about storytelling. Continue reading →
Two weeks ago, we had Katie Fforde digging in the dirt — with and without Ray Mears! — in order to write about life in the here-and-now. This week, we welcome Jean Fullerton who writes award-winning historical sagas about the not-so-very-long-ago.
It can seem worlds away from where we are now, even though some readers will have lived through the periods of Jean’s stories and experienced exactly the kind of gritty reality she describes. And if you enjoy Call the Midwife, you’ll love Jean Fullerton’s books.
Read on to find out more about the lengths an author goes to in order to get it right…
Jean Fullerton, East London Author
District nurse Jean wasn’t quite like this!
I was born in East London where my family have lived since the 1820s.
I’ve written ten novels set in East London (published by Orion) and am just putting the finishing touches to my eleventh. This one is set during the Second World War, and also in East London. I’m now a full-time writer but I was a District Nurse in East London for over 25 years. These days, I live with my hero just outside London. Continue reading →
It’s useful, when researching, to be able to consult people who were there. But go back more than a century or so — to the Regency in Britain, for example — and there are no living witnesses to consult. Regency novelists — like today’s guest, Elizabeth Rolls — have to rely on other sources.
You may imagine that “other sources” means dusty history books and written materials. But there’s much more than that.
And getting to grips with the non-written stuff can present the odd challenge if the author in question lives 12,000 miles away, in Australia.
As Elizabeth Rolls does…
Elizabeth Rolls loves her research
To research or not to research?
For me, research is a must. I’ve had a book kick off in my mind over a snippet about the crossroads burial of suicides in the early 19th century. The past is very much a foreign country, but add 12 000 miles into the equation and you have a real challenge. Continue reading →