Libraries: Poplar’s palaces of learning13th February 2018
Books and leisure time in which to read them...
Here you’ll find some background on the book I am currently engaged in researching. It is very early days and by the time I am confident that I know enough to start the actual writing of the novel (as opposed to the planning and world-building) there should be a pretty comprehensive account of my research process tucked under this category. I will be interested to thumb through it myself.
Novels set in Spain, Cuba, and Argentina need to be vibrant with atmosphere if the different dances are to represent the passion of the people. And this is especially crucial when the stories all take place in the 1920s. Here you can read about the background to the first two books. Visit my current research category for a sneaky peek into how I am going about growing the world of book three in the quartet.
Some of the things that have, somewhere along the road of life, gone into making me tick.
I can’t visit the world my characters inhabit because it no longer exists. But my job is to make it feel as though it does and bring it alive in the reader’s imagination. Here are some pieces about my research sources and techniques, and my trials and tribulations in my quest to get it right. You might also like to flick the pages of my media scrapbook for some articles on the real world behind the May Keaps series or peruse my pieces on the writing of the books.
I base my research on the legacy of what people said and wrote about their thoughts and experiences, loves and loss, hopes and dreams, as much as I can. And through my characters I do my very best to honour their lives because, without them, my books could never be written. Here are some pieces exploring the riches to be unearthed amongst the annals of oral history.
I plan my novels to be in the settings and explore the topics that already pique my curiosity because the research for them can take up to a year. Which is an awfully long time if it was to be spent on something I have no interest in. Of course my books also require I research the sort of things that would normally have me yawning or skimming the details to get it over with, but that’s part of the job. Here are some pieces about my favourite topics to research, and the ones that nearly drove me around the bend.
Come back to explore the contents of my resource library from time to time because I will be adding more thoughts around the topics whenever I can. I would not be a writer if it wasn’t for everything I have read, learned, and grown from, throughout my life. Within the pages of my books are encoded my experiences of acquiring knowledge and it only feels fair that what others have made possible for me, I should, in turn, pass on. So here are some doors for you to open; I hope you thoroughly enjoy exploring the worlds waiting beyond them.
In Britain, The Great War was the first to be documented and the material made widely available. Newspapers such as The War Illustrated were devoted to progress (and it always was success stories of course) for the interested-but-detached sitting at home to read over the breakfast table. The key to bringing this terrible period of history alive is to convey what it was like to be an ordinary person like you or me caught up in events. Here are some pieces I have written about my research sources and techniques, and my drive to get it right.
The research I undertook for this standalone novel had a different starting point to that for the Dance Quartet and May Keaps series. I had gathered a lot of material on shell-shock for a previous writing project and so one of the major themes of the book was already scoped and had flesh on the bones. What seemed to take forever to get to grips with was to what degree I needed to be conversant with the birth and emergence of psychoanalysis. But threading in and out of the grim subject of damaged minds and keeping me sane was my reading on beekeeping and roses and herbal remedies, Gypsy lore and village grocers’ shops. The topics I’ll be touching on here are equally eclectic.
A popular misconception about women living the 1920s is that they were all flappers. They weren’t. Most couldn’t afford the luxury of sequined dresses, and the closest they got to a rackety life was sitting in the tanner seats of the local picture house clutching a box of strawberry cremes. But life after The Great War had changed for a lot of them – rich and poor alike – as much as the loss of sons, brothers, lovers, husbands or fathers had changed them.