Hmm . . .
Maybe time for a little confession here.
I’m tempted to say I did tons of it, because that would be the authorly thing to do, wouldn’t it? I have friends, fellow authors, who not only lay great store by research but throw themselves into it with a passion I usually reserve for Ashes Test series and any TV drama starring Nicola Walker. The moment they hit on an idea for the next novel, they’re off up to London and setting up base camp in the British Library, teasing out as many arcane details as they can find in order to lend authenticity to their work. If that sounds either mocking or condescending in tone, nothing could be further from the truth. I bow to no one in my admiration for them and have come away from some of their novels with a greatly enhanced understanding of a particular time or place or social movement or historical figure . . . whatever. And there’s an insistent voice inside which tells me that if I’m going to produce something of genuine quality, I need to do the same. After all, no one wants to invest time in reading a 400 page novel that’s riddled with inaccuracies that clunk and jar on every other page.
So how many visits to the British Library did I make? Well, none, to be honest. How many hours did I spend online, trawling through for little nuggets that might bring my characters or settings to life? Some, but not as many as you might think. The truth is, I wrote what I knew. I did a bit of research into court procedure in the ’60s, read Gitta Sereny’s book on Mary Bell, asked a few friends about nursing homes and dementia, looked at a few articles online about Thompson and Venables but this was all very ad hoc rather than part of a structured plan of action. I set the Cotswold scenes in a village that was loosely based on Stanton in Gloucestershire where I spent a lot of my childhood and my grandmother ran the village post office. I used the area around Chichester and Pagham where I live for Ellen’s home base.
For the rest I used my experience as a reader, passing on my own experience of how I’ve understood the world to work, relying totally upon the pace and complexity of the novel to deflect the reader’s attention away from any minor error of detail that might be in there. I suppose the best way to describe my methodology is to say I trusted my own instincts as a reader. If I’m deeply engrossed in a novel, have bought into the characters and the action and care about what is unfolding before me, the last thing I want to do is break off and check Wikipedia every five seconds. As long as the author hasn’t driven me to it by creating some monstrous gaffe or thrown in anachronisms that break up my total immersion in the story, I’m not going to care two hoots. So I suppose I was relying on my ability to hook readers and reel them in to get me past any minor difficulties of my own making.
I know that to say this is to invite disaster but . . . to date I haven’t had people beating down my door to tell me that x couldn’t have happened because y wasn’t in place until three months later. It may happen – and if it does I’ll hold my hand up. Mea culpa. But if there are enough readers and reviewers who feel the book is an intriguing story that is well told, I’ll be more than happy with that. And next time, I’ll do masses of research. Of course I will.
Now read an extract of THE HIDDEN LEGACY
The Hidden Legacy Prologue.pdf
and BUY it as eBook released November 5, 2016