Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Mar

14

2012

YEAH BABY

Filed under: research, The Summer of Living Dangerously

Of course once I’d decided to write a novel about historical re-enactors, I had to go see some. So I coerced Brigid Coady into helping me. I actually blogged about this in detail after it happened, so I’m repeating the post here, in case you missed it the first time. Because it has Tudor Dudes in it. And as it happened a year and a half ago, it’s like time travel, and so fits in with the dual timeline of The Summer of Living Dangerously. Yeah, baby.

***

22 September, 2010
On Saturday, Brigid and I went to Hampton Court Palace for the day. This was totally research. I’m currently writing about a historical re-enactor, and every day at Hampton Court Palace, historical re-enactors, well, re-enact, Henry VIII’s wedding to Catherine Parr. So I had to go and see what these re-enactors did, how it was organised, how they interacted with their audience, how tongue-in-cheek it all was.

Plus, it was the opportunity to ogle some Tudor dudes. Talking on Twitter beforehand, Brigid and I decided that every time we saw someone in Tudor costume, it was imperative to turn to each other and say, “Yeah, baby!” Because that is, you know, Tudor.

We also agreed we would have to closely inspect any male Tudor calves which came into our vicinity.

First, we helped Catherine Parr select her wedding dress. Although she is not, strictly speaking, a Tudor dude, I got some great ideas for my book just from those twenty minutes. (In the chapter “A Most Inconvenient Engagement”, in case you’re wondering.)

Me and a Queen

Then, we watched Henry VIII talk over his impending nuptuals with his courtiers. And arm-wrestle said courtiers. This particular activity brought Sir Thomas Seymour‘s calf muscles rather close to Brigid and me. As one, we both bent and snapped a photo.

Tudor calf

After this close inspection we were both rather enamoured of the roguish Sir Thomas and made sure we had our portrait taken with him.

Sir Seymour sandwich

Then we drank a toast to King Henry VIII (“Yeah, baby!”) and his last bride, from the wine fountain in the courtyard. I need me one of those.

Wine fountain! Yeah baby!

I wouldn’t say no to a Tudor dude, either.

***

Back to 14 March, 2012: All of this was incredibly useful for The Summer of Living Dangerously, even though my characters weren’t playing Tudors. These re-enactors, I discovered later, are professional actors rather than necessarily being history buffs, and they work to a script, from which they ad lib as necessary. My characters don’t have a script, and are a mixture of amateurs and professionals.

The Summer of Living Dangerously is available from Amazon.co.uk here in paperback and for Kindle, from Amazon.com for Kindle here, and with free international shipping from The Book Depository here.

This week, I’m on BBC Radio Berkshire on Thursday at 2.00 pm, an author guest at the 14/4 Literary Dinner in Windsor on Friday, and signing copies of my new book at Waterstones in the Oracle, Reading, on Saturday 17th March from 11-2.


4 Comments

Mar

12

2012

how I went to Brighton and came back with a book

Filed under: research, The Summer of Living Dangerously

I’ve been celebrating the launch of my book everywhere lately—including on Risky Regencies, the QVC blog and, today, on the Word Wenches. But I haven’t properly celebrated it here, on my own website.

So for the next few days I’m going to be posting some stuff about my book, The Summer of Living Dangerously. Some behind-the-scenes stuff, mostly: about research, about how I wrote it, about the soundtrack and the influences, about some of the issues in the book that have touched me.

First, how the book started. It’s about historical re-enactors, and I got the idea for it when the Rock God and I were in Brighton for our anniversary. We stayed in this brilliant B&B called The Brighton Pavilions Hotel, where every room was decorated to a different theme. We stayed in the Royal Pavilion room and of course our first priority was to visit the Royal Pavilion, the Prince Regent’s lush folly of a seaside retreat.

As soon as we walked up, we were greeted by a woman dressed as a Regency-era servant. She greeted us, told us which way to enter, and then immediately got into an argument with a man dressed as some sort of groom. In the Long Gallery, a young gentlewoman asked if we were there as guests of the Prince; a servant lounged in the kitchen waiting for his favourite kitchen maid to flirt with. When we got to the Music Room, Prince George himself was there, demanding we bow, and treating us as if we were soldiers returning from the Peninsular Wars.

It was amazing.

Afterwards, we walked down to the sea front and saw a gathering of VW camper vans. (This is, apparently, very typical in Brighton.) Then we went to the pub. And it was in the pub that I turned to my husband and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to set a book in a place like that? And to have a heroine who was a historical interpreter, but in reality her life was a total mess, so she became completely obsessed by her fake historical life so that she could escape from her real life?’

And the long-suffering but perfect Rock God said, ‘Yes, that would be great. Have some more wine.’

And so, the book was born.

Next post…YEAH BABY.

The Summer of Living Dangerously is available from Amazon.co.uk here in paperback and for Kindle, from Amazon.com for Kindle here, and with free international shipping from The Book Depository here.

This week, I’m on BBC Radio Berkshire on Thursday at 2.00 pm, an author guest at the 14/4 Literary Dinner in Windsor on Friday, and signing copies of my new book at Waterstones in the Oracle, Reading, on Saturday 17th March from 11-2.


11 Comments

May

9

2011

interesting little things

Filed under: research, writing

I’ve mentioned earlier that I’m in the middle of doing copy edits for my next novel, and I’m enjoying being really picky about my work. One of the joys of copy-editing this particular novel is that in it, the characters are historical interpreters in a stately home that’s re-creating the summer of 1814. So although the story is set in the present, the characters spend a lot of time talking and dressing like characters in a Regency novel.

This was, as you can imagine, fantastically fun to write; it was like writing a Regency romp but with a sort of knowingness to it, in that all of the characters are actually modern and are just pretending. It meant that I needed to know more about modern perceptions of Regency customs, than the actual Regency customs themselves (if that makes sense). I needed to mention the little things that actual Regency people would take for granted, but that 21st-century people pretending to be Regency people would notice. Such as knickers, or lack thereof. Or what it feels like to wear a corset when you’re used to a bra. Or how difficult it is to embroider.

Anyway, because of this, today I’ve been researching various bits of 1814 minutiae. For example, mourning periods and when one can go into half-mourning for a parent, or marry after the death of a sister. The permissible colour schemes for a hall, saloon and drawing room. The weather in the summer of 1814. Slang for “exhausted” or “beautiful”. Who would be introduced first in a room full of people of equal rank. And the precise amount of minutes one can stand still at the end of the set during “The Duke of Kent Waltz”.

One of the great parts of research like this, is that I actually know people who know the answers to these questions, or know where I can find them. People in the Romantic Novelists’ Association are hugely knowledgeable, and I’ve also met people through my research who can help me—historians, interpreters, re-enactors, dancers, costume experts. As a writer, it’s invaluable to have kind, helpful people in your corner. And I love being able to email people out of the blue and ask them about historical knickers.

Have you learned anything interesting lately?


9 Comments

Sep

25

2010

My Regency weekend, part 1

Filed under: about me, research

Yesterday, after a week of frantic preparation, borrowing clothes and curling ostrich feathers, I packed my things in my car and zoomed down to Dorset. I had some workshops in Kingston Maurward house, which is a Georgian mansion in Dorchester, learning how to dance and behave like a Regency gentlewoman. And then, in the evening, I was going to a Regency ball.

I went on my own, and I was staying in a hotel which consisted of a few rooms stuck on the back of a pub. When it came to buttoning up my Regency-style gown, I had no one to help me. I had to venture out into the pub car park, where people who’d been drinking for most of the afternoon were having a quick cigarette. I asked a female (tattoos, track suit bottoms, chain-smoking, drinking cider) to help me button up. She stuck her fag between her teeth and obliged me, which was quite nice of her I think considering we were both probably a little bit frightened of each other.

Then I discovered quite how difficult it is to drive a Toyota when you’re wearing a Regency gown which prevents you from the full and free movement of your arms. Under the gazes of my buttoner-up and several other (tattooed, track-suit wearing, chain-smoking, cider and lager drinking) people, I performed a 20-point turn in the car park and was on my way.

It was worth it, though. This is what I looked like.

Our Heroine

I borrowed the beautiful crimson and green silk shawl from a generous lady whom I’d met that afternoon, who was down from the north with her husband to take part in the re-enactments. She had a marvellous ivory gown overlaid with ivory and gold gauze:

Mrs F

I hadn’t thought I was going to do any dancing, because I was without a partner, and in the waltz workshop that afternoon, I’d been really, really inept. But I was wrong. The Hampshire Regency Dancers were there and they were marvellous. Before I knew it, several gentlemen were engaging me to dance. (I later discovered that this is their policy, to always ask people without a partner first, before dancing with others of their own group. Isn’t that wonderful?) Also, they taught the steps before each dance, and called the steps using a microphone during the dance itself. With a little—well, okay, a lot of—help from my partners and other dancers, I managed most of the dances all right, without killing anyone else, or even myself. Though I did nearly lose my shoe a few times.

Regency dancing

(Sorry for the quality of the photo—the light was dim. I don’t have many photos of the dancing, because mostly I was involved myself.)

This is Mr W, who is a professional performance historian. He often plays Henry VIII or an executioner, but I think he makes a charming Regency gentleman. Earlier in the day, he was supposed to have taught me Regency gaming and etiquette, but instead, we spent an informative and enjoyable hour talking about his fascinating job.

Mr W

It was a magical, magical evening. I talked to so many people, over dinner and during the dancing, and it didn’t matter at all that I’d come all by myself, without knowing anything about what to do. And I learned a great deal. These beautiful ladies were demonstrating the usefulness of a fan to conceal the exchange of gossip:

gossiping behind a fan

When I got back to the hotel, footsore and happy, the pub had closed, so there were no cider-drinking chain-smokers outside to help me out of my dress. Which was a good thing, really. I had no desire to join the twenty-first century yet—at least not in that manner. With a bit of stretching, I managed it myself.

In the morning I went to the Napoleonic Fair, to see the battle re-enactments. And the hunky soldiers. But that’s a post for another day.


30 Comments

Sep

22

2010

Tudor dudes

Filed under: research

On Saturday, Brigid and I went to Hampton Court Palace for the day. This was totally research. I’m currently writing about a historical re-enactor, and every day at Hampton Court Palace, historical re-enactors, well, re-enact, Henry VIII’s wedding to Catherine Parr. So I had to go and see what these re-enactors did, how it was organised, how they interacted with their audience, how tongue-in-cheek it all was.

Plus, it was the opportunity to ogle some Tudor dudes. Talking on Twitter beforehand, Brigid and I decided that every time we saw someone in Tudor costume, it was imperative to turn to each other and say, “Yeah, baby!” Because that is, you know, Tudor.

We also agreed we would have to closely inspect any male Tudor calves which came into our vicinity.

First, we helped Catherine Parr select her wedding dress. Although she is not, strictly speaking, a Tudor dude, I got some great ideas for my book just from those twenty minutes.

Me and a Queen

Then, we watched Henry VIII talk over his impending nuptuals with his courtiers. And arm-wrestle said courtiers. This particular activity brought Sir Thomas Seymour‘s calf muscles rather close to Brigid and me. As one, we both bent and snapped a photo.

Tudor calf

After this close inspection we were both rather enamoured of the roguish Sir Thomas and made sure we had our portrait taken with him.

Sir Seymour sandwich

Then we drank a toast to King Henry VIII (“Yeah, baby!”) and his last bride, from the wine fountain in the courtyard. I need me one of those.

Wine fountain! Yeah baby!

I wouldn’t say no to a Tudor dude, either.

Stay tuned for the continuing story of this week’s adventures in the past…


12 Comments

Sep

14

2010

I shall go to the ball!

Filed under: about me, research

I am so very excited because the weekend after next I am going to this! Including a ball, and everything!

Squeeee!!

Er…anyone have a Regency dress I can borrow?


4 Comments

May

24

2010

my Basildon Park day

Filed under: research

Basildon Park Octagon RoomWhat a glorious weekend! I’ve been picnicking and hanging out with friends and haven’t written a word for days.

On Friday I had my day at Basildon Park. It was a perfect day to be there—sunny and warm—and when I arrived the volunteers were having a coffee morning outside in the grounds. I spent the entire day roaming around the house, talking with staff and volunteers, watching visitors and learning about the history of the place.

It was fantastic. I got an insight into the number of staff it takes to run a large house such as this and keep it open to the public. I spoke with the volunteers, who were all from different walks of life and with different interests. The house steward was particularly helpful and told me stories of the odd things that have happened there over the years. He showed me his array of specially-labelled brushes for dusting, opened usually-shut doors for me, and let me watch him lock up.

Basildon Park Drawing RoomI think the best thing for me, though, was the fifteen minutes or so before the house opened to the public, when I could stand in a room and feel it as it would have felt without the visitors tromping through it. The moments where I could look out a window, or across the dining room, and begin to picture what it would be like to live in this place.

I’m feeling very inspired to write…so I’d best get to it!


9 Comments

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