Friday 21 February 2014

Present day historical detail. What a nightmare!

Novelists writing about the past have an easy time of it, I reckon. They seek out historical sources and do the research, and that’s it. Easy, yeah? I hear the protests. Historical research is no picnic. Granted, it’s not, but it’s in the job description for a novelist, and once researched, it sticks!

For those of us who set our novels in the present day, we need psychic powers, too.

When I wrote Like False Money, neither Google Streetview nor satellite images showed any interest in rural East Yorkshire, but it became a photo finish between Google cars in the area and the book hitting the shops. 

When I wrote the first draft of the Doll Makers, no one routinely used email or mobile phones. When a publisher bit, I had to move the entire thing forward 20 years into a different world, the older characters underwent significant memory shifts. Being in your teens in World War II shapes you very differently from being in your teens in the 1960s.

And that’s my point really. Historical research is a solid foundation on which to write a novel. The ‘present day’ is quicksand.

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