Monday, November 12, 2007
“How do you research your stories?”
Writing medievals, that's a question I get a lot. Since I'm sequestered behind my desktop computer most of the time, my answer is invariably books and Google. True, sometimes I emerge from my cave to attend Scottish festivals and Renaissance fairs, where I chat with re-enactors, who provide me with great practical details for my historical writing.
But the best research of all is travel. Once in a while, I'm treated to a really wonderful hands-on experience and actually have the opportunity to visit the places I write about—okay, maybe not the 12th century, but a reasonable facsimile. This month, I've stowed away on the band's bus for my husband's two-week concert tour of Britain!
Today we're in the well-preserved medieval village of York, or Jorvik, as it was known by the Vikings who settled here in the Dark Ages. It's possible to circle almost the entire town by ambling along the stone wall-walk that surrounds it, gazing inward across the maze of cobbled streets and peering out the arrow slits for invading armies. The imposing cathedral of Yorkminster rises in the midst of the city, and the gleaming towers of York Castle sit atop a grassy mound nearby.
But the most charming and evocative area of York for me is the Shambles. The Shambles refers to a quaint district where two- and three-story medieval shops lean over the almost impassably narrow roads. Wandering down the rocky lanes with their hidden passageways and twisting alleys, it's easy to hear the cries of medieval craftsmen hawking their wares from the lath-and-plaster buildings...to smell the heady scent of ale and peat-smoke wafting from the pubs...to imagine the sly nudge of a wench with a dagger cutting one's purse and dashing down the lane through the crush of cloaked passersby, a handsome lawman striding past in determined pursuit.
See what I mean? Travel is the best research, not for the dry historical facts, but for the impressions and flavors and memories that seem to resonate from the very stones. It's true “inspiration,” which means literally “breathing in.” When I travel, I can inhale the atmosphere of times past and bring it home with me to breathe life into my stories. Interesting...“Inspiration” also happens to be the name of the tour bus!
Stories to keep you up all night!
LADY DANGER - Riding to the rescue April 2006
CAPTIVE HEART - Coming for you October 2006
KNIGHT'S PRIZE - Stealing your heart April 2007
DANGER'S KISS - May 2008