Somehow I’ve managed to come up with an idea that requires a ridiculous amount of research. With The Accident and The Lie I was able to draw on personal experiences (including trekking the Anna Purna range in 2006) and watch documentaries and read non-fiction in order to complete my research. With The Missing I had to consult with an ex-detective (Stuart Gibbon, he’s very good) and drive around Bristol with a friend to scout out locations but I’ve gone one step further with THE ESCAPE. I’ve spoken to four or five different people so far, all from different professions, and last week I traveled to Ireland with a friend to do more research.
THE ESCAPE is set in the UK and Ireland and I felt it was important to experience the journey my main character makes from the UK to Ireland, find the right setting for key scenes in the book first hand, and also to find out more about Irish culture. The plan was to drive from Bristol to Fishguard and get the ferry to Rosslare but, the day before we were due to leave (when I was just about to teach a session on conflict at Miranda Dickinson’s writers’ inspiration day in Dudley), I received a text from the ferry company saying the ferry had been cancelled due to bad weather. Cue a frantic phone call to my friend (who had offered to do the driving in Ireland) and lots of rearranging. We came up with an alternative plan. We’d fly to Dublin on the Monday instead. Fly. In 60mph winds. That was fun!
The original plan had been to drive from Rosslare to Wexford and spend the night and then drive up the east coast of Ireland on Tuesday so we hired a car at Dublin airport and drove to Wexford. My main character stays in a B&B in Ireland and I wanted to see if they differed from UK B&Bs. I also wanted to see what the B&B owners were like as one of the major characters in the book is an Irish B&B owner. Let’s just say that I met someone to model that character on!
On Tuesday we began our drive up the east coast. I’d been posting photos on Instagram and one of my followers suggested that we stop off a Greystones beach. So we did! It was beautiful but FREEZING. If I decide that my character goes to Ireland in early February I should be able to accurately portray the whip of the wind and the sting of the sleet!
From Greystones beach we continued up to Clogherhead, a potential setting that had been suggested to me by Margaret Bonass Madden (writing.ie and Bleach House Library blogger) when I’d asked for ideas on Facebook. I loved the houses, the beach, the rock pools and when I spotted a car driving along the sand it sparked an idea for a scene in the book (and I’m saying no more about that!)
We spent the night in a B&B in Drogheda and met Margaret and another blogger, Celeste McCreesh, in a restaurant in town. It was lovely to meet them both, having previously only chatted to them on Twitter, and they were also hugely helpful in providing me an insight into Irish culture back in 1981 and in the present day. I wrote five pages of notes.
On Wednesday my friend Joe and I were off again, this time to explore New Grange, a prehistoric monument/neolithic tomb a kilometre north of the River Boyne. I’m nearly six foot tall and very claustrophobic and had second thoughts about going into the centre of the tomb when a large American chap started shouting for us to get out because he’d nearly got stuck. I decided to be brave and give it a go, and I’m so glad I did. Scary as it was, standing under tons of rocks that had been placed on top of each other (no cement!) it was overwhelming to think that I was inside a structure that had been created, and used, around 3000BC.
After Newgrange we had time for one more trip before the sun set and traveled to Hill of Tara where we explored the hills and admired the views.
Thursday was the last full day of our trip and, with my research complete, we drove back down to Dublin and enjoyed an afternoon of shopping and a trip to the Guinness Storehouse (it had to be done!)
I’ve been back a little over a week now and I’m pleased to say that I’ve almost finished my outline of the new book (to be delivered to my editor on 22nd February). Now’s there’s just the ‘small’ matter of writing the first draft…
7 thoughts on “Road trip novel research…”
Ooh, you were at all my stomping grounds when I go to Ireland! My aunt-in-law owns a holiday house by the beach at Clogherhead which we stayed in once. Have been to Newgrange a couple of times and Tara many many times (mother-in-law lives close). I adore Tara. So atmospheric – you can almost feel the fairies hiding in the iron age earthworks.
You mean River Boyne, I think? As it the battle of the Boyne, which to Irish schoolkids is as familiar a story as the Battle of Hastings is to us.
Thanks Kath, yes, River Boyne. Typo now fixed! How wonderful that you have relatives nearby. We had to fit in so many different visits in such a short time that it all passed in a bit of a blur. I wish we’d been able to take our time but half term is only so long! I’d love to go back in the summer.
I loved reading your experiences of Ireland Cally, and great pictures too! You’ve made me very homesick 😉
Thanks Caroline. Sorry I made you feel homesick but what a lovely place to be from!
Thanks Cally, I’m booking a flight as soon as it warms up, and I don’t have to contend with those bitter chills!
Hi C.L Taylor,
I really love your texts especially The Lie. How can can get your novels like The Accident and Missing in hard copies? How long does it take you to make a research before you begin writing a book?
Hi Anthony, thanks for getting in touch. You can buy paperback copies of my novels online. They are available on Amazon, Waterstones and The Book Depository websites (and many more!). The Accident and The Lie are available at the moment and The Missing will be available on 7th April when you should also be able to buy a paperback in most major supermarkets and WH Smiths. I tend to research my books for two to three months depending on how much information I need to gather. Thanks for your questions!