Monday, 16 February 2015

Finding the right locations

Last week was all about finding the right location. If I've been somewhere, I write with more conviction and somehow that makes the book seem better. So we drove down to Dartmoor to find a village, a church and a house that could work together for A Baby's Bones 2. We didn't expect the coincidences to lead us all over East Dartmoor like a treasure hunt.

Let me explain. I had to come up with a name on the fly so chose Gould (first 'G' name in the phone book). I had to invent an arrangement of big standing stones on Dartmoor (so I called them Gabriell's Gate - no reason) and I had the fragments of a ghost story about a tiny place on Dartmoor called Lustleigh.

We went to Lustleigh first (because it's on the way to Moretonhampstead which has a tea shop which serves gluten-free cakes, to be honest). The village, which is very picturesque, has an old church - exactly what I was looking for. Thirteen hundreds. added to and extended, tiny. 

Inside, there was a war memorial panel. On it was the name Gould, prominently displayed. The church had some lovely details, including some early memorial carvings moved and set into the walls, and sixteen hundreds memorial stones set into the floor. 

I then went off to look for churches near the fictitious 'Gabriell's Gate'. We had narrowed it down to the Postbridge area - where the local church is called: 

Walking back to the car I was a bit frustrated that no Tudor buildings were nearby, although a glimpse of a house through the trees did catch my eye: Hartyland.

Underneath the 1930's exterior is a thirteenth century farm house, and as luck would have it, it was recently put up for sale, some of the interior photographs were available on Rightmove. Perfect size, perfect location, stone construction, and once you look at the house up close its tall, granite chimneys give its earlier origins away. It's the house. 

Now I can roam about the house - past and present - to my heart's content. It makes you want to rush home and write, which I sort of did. I even missed my gluten-free cakes.  

Monday, 9 February 2015

Sequels, sequels

It's been months since I wrote a blog post but for good reason (or very bad reasons). I've been distracted by various disasters and stresses, and a bit of a wobbly health moment, and the writing just stalled. I could edit, review, organise, but I couldn't find the concentration to find story enough to sit and write new stuff. That seems over because I have rewritten the historical strand the sequel to A Baby's Bones, snappily named ABB 2.

The first book is about an archaeologist (Sage) investigating why a baby's bones are found in a sixteenth century well. I followed Sage's adventures while also writing what happened back in 1580, when a fourteen year old girl (Viola) was embroiled in the story of an illegitimate birth, overwhelming jealousy and loss. I always wanted to know what happened to Viola next. She was such a great character, so I'm sending her off on a journey that a lot of well-born girls made - to stay with a female relative to learn how to be a married woman. I may not have been writing but I have been reading - the life of a Tudor housewife was as a manager of team of male servants. Wives, even noblewomen, had to be the expert cooks, apothecaries and house managers of essentially largish hotels, where a constant stream of visitors and their servants had to be housed, fed and entertained. If anything happened to that female figure and her senior staff the place would fall into chaos quite quickly. The other thing I found strange was how close the relationship between family and servants was. There was a culture of seeing servants as dependants, there was a great sense of responsibility. With men doing almost all of the inside work bar very personal care, women were surrounded by male servants all with their own areas of responsibility. So different from later centuries where there was a great divide between the ruling classes and the ruled! One commentator described being 'scolded' by her hall steward for leaving sewing out and forgetting to oversee the laundry maids. I need a hall steward, he can keep track of all the papers and books presently filling up the study.  

In the absence of servants, I'm waiting for notes about the Secrets book 3, presently without a title. I've been reading Venetian Navigators: The Voyages of the Zen Brothers to the Far North by Andrea di Robilant, the (possibly true) story of Nicolò and Antonio Zen as they travelled from Venice across the North Atlantic - possibly reaching the New World. In the 1380's, way before Columbus. The Venetians were amazing explorers and it's been great brushing up my maritime knowledge before I travel again with Kelley down the Mediterranean, in an open boat, through corsair infested waters.