Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Joy of Research

Yet more Archives!

Just back from another archive trip - not the National Archive this time, despite the photo. This time I really got around - the British Library, the Newspaper Archive in Colindale, the London Metropolitan Archive and a lovely little gem in the City - the Museum of the Order of St John, better known these days as the St John Ambulance. More about that at another time. I also crammed in some theatre. More about that later too. All this activity may be why I feel this morning like someone has borrowed my brain, and forgotten to return it. Archive research is essential for the academic stuff I'm involved in, and a delightful and justifiable indulgence/wonderful displacement activity, if you write historicals. (Can't actually write anything today - not until I've researched eighteenth century medicine, or the battle of Waterloo, or this very important detail about gentlemen's wigs ... you get the picture.)

As my chosen genre of the moment is contemporary romantic suspense, I don't get to do a lot of archive stuff for that. Devlin, the hero of Never Coming Home is more your action hero type. Actually he'd probably look over his shoulder if you called him a hero, wondering who you were talking about, as he doesn't think of himself that way. But I do, and so does Kaz, so he'll just have to get used to it. Only don't tell him I said that. I don't want to get on the wrong side of him. No-one wants to get on the wrong side of Devlin. Kaz can manage him, I'll leave her to sort him out. If we say he's a hero, he's a hero. And I'll hide behind her while she tells him.

RNA Party - IME Library - Jan and Myra, looking very glam.

But - back to the research - for Never Coming Home it was more practical stuff, which is why, when I was writing it, I spent a morning before an RNA summer party researching exactly which bench in St James' Park was suitable for murder. There are a lot of benches in St James' Park, but I found one that was just right. And then I had to work out how long it would take to get there from Scotland Yard. After my third trip around the block I began to worry about getting arrested for showing a suspicious amount of interest . 'Well, you see Officer, I'm writing this book ...

Then, the day after the party, I went down to Hayes, an old haunt when I lived in London. (I still have fond memories of the prefabs in the grounds of the Town Hall - my first 'proper job'.) That day I was looking at derelict buildings. I needed one close to the railway line. I won't tell you what for, but it did stop all the trains in and out of Paddington for a couple of hours. No - not what I did - (We're back to being arrested again.) I was a good girl and stood on the pavement, in the rain, and peered at suitable buildings. It was what Devlin did that stopped the traffic. I'll leave that one to your imagination. That's the fun part about being an author, you can do just about anything you like.  Anyway I found several that were close enough to the line to make what I had in mind plausible, and there you go. Worth the train fare and the rain.

It's a hard life, making all this stuff up.

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