Jane's very kindly written a guest post today about how she researches her novels.
Over to you, Jane...
People often ask me how I research my books.
I have no idea why they do this, since the most cursory glance at me should tell them that I am the person least designed to do research. The fact that I quite often forget to put on my trousers should be a bit of a clue, and a person who can’t even dress themselves satisfactorily is hardly one that should be allowed in the vicinity of careful, detailed exploration of plot points, unless chocolate is involved. Even travelling is dubious, I can get lost within a five mile radius of my own home, and once (this was quite a while ago) I managed to lose an entire supermarket. Which is why I write books set in and around the North Yorkshire Moors. They are big, impossible to lose, and, since they are practically right outside my door, hard for me to get lost in.
The moors are also prone to weather. Not just ‘weather’, like you get in towns and cities, where it might be a bit damp or a bit chilly… no. Up there the temperature can be five degrees less than in town, the wind gets inside your clothes and commits various acts of indecency, and when it rains it comes at you from all directions at once. Up on the moors the weather really means it. So, you have setting and atmosphere fitted as standard, which is helpful because it only leaves me with characters and plot to worry about.
For How I Wonder What You Are, I also had to delve a little bit into the world of the astrophysicist. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Brian Cox, the man is way too smiley for it to be natural, but I do work in a school with a physics department, and we did happen to have a tame astrophysicist lounging around while I was writing, so at least I can be sure that those bits of the book are accurate. Not sure if it really counts as ‘research’ when you are sitting and eating cake in the Science Office, but it was quite useful, plus a chance to eat cake, which is an underrated part of research, if you ask me.
Which really only leaves us with plot research, and, while I don’t mind going outside and/or eating cake in the interests of accuracy, I draw the line at lying naked on the moors (as Phinn is when Molly finds him) or throwing myself into rivers in spate. I mean, I don’t mind suffering for my art, but only when the suffering takes the form of having to eat carrot cake because they’ve run out of coffee and walnut. So the painful bits of my book are made up. So, sadly, are the glamorous bits, because nobody is prepared to fund me a lavish lifestyle, not even for a little while, even in the interests of research.
It’s been over eighteen months since Molly Gilchrist has had a man (as her best friend, Caro, is so fond of reminding her) so when she as good as stumbles upon one on the moors one bitterly cold morning, it seems like the Universe is having a laugh at her expense.
But Phinn Baxter (that’s Doctor Phinneas Baxter) is no common drunkard, as Molly is soon to discover; with a PhD in astrophysics and a tortured past that is a match for Molly’s own disastrous love life.
Finding mysterious men on the moors isn’t the weirdest thing Molly has to contend with, however. There’s also those strange lights she keeps seeing in the sky. The ones she’s only started seeing since meeting Phinn …
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