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…