It’s a long time since I’ve researched a novel from scratch and with this latest book I’ve chosen a central topic about which I am wholly ignorant. The rise and fall of a matador in 1924.
So, how to make a start on absorbing enough knowledge to be able to direct the plot of the novel (as all research should if it is not to end up as window dressing)? First off, I constructed intricate mind-maps of areas I thought I’d need to investigate. Then I searched through my books, files of research I’d collated for the previous novels in the Rhythms in Crime Dance Quartet, photograph albums of holidays in Andalusia; tracked down on-line resources; and drew up a list of authors who had written novels about bullfighting. And all of it became the contents of a series of crisp clean files that will one day be my first port of call for every important decision I will make concerning the lives of my characters and the world they inhabit.
And there ends the first stage in the quest to research in, around, and thoroughly to the heart of, a slice of life I can only ever experience through the fertility of my imagination. Next time I’ll take you into the treacherous realms of stage 2 which is where, invariability, the doubts creep in about writing any sort of book about anything to do with whatever it is that is causing me grief and what a stupid idea the whole thing was in the first place . . .