Sunday 15 June 2014

Ramdomness of Writing Research

There is an aspect of writing I love and that is the research. I can get caught up in it. There is always the risk that you are too busy researching that you forget to write the story though. It doesn't matter what sort of story you are writing there will always been some element of research that needs to be done.

I like the details that add credibility to your story - that make it real. Often my research will lead to only a word or two on the page but that doesn't matter. I am infuriated as I write this I can remember reading some where recently but can't remember where that it is vital that your story is credible but not necessarily authentic. I find that small bits of information can lift your story off the page. What is important is that you do not bog your narrative down with detail. All that happens then is you stultify your story and particularly with children and young adults you will switch them off. The story has to be the focus. Everything else hangs off it and adds colour.

This week my research has lead me to have a conversation with a friend about Austrian/German nursery rhymes and quizzing another friend about whether you would potentially know if your helmet had been hit by sniper bullet. My friends love me and the random questions they often get asked. I am eternally grateful for their patience and tolerance. Over the years my children have had to put up with some extraordinary questions usually with the comment do their friends, 'Don't worry, she's writing!'

Books and Google are a wonderful resource as well. My internet history is fascinating. What guns did the Nazis use during World War II? How do horses react to the dead? What does a bullet wound look like if shot by a sniper? Plus Google maps/images if you need reminding of a detail. How spoilt are we these days when it comes to research it is so much easier than it was. I do my utmost to get things right but when dealing with history there is always going to be a risk. We can't know we weren't there and it is always going to be interpretation.

Today is Father's Day in the UK. My own father died in 1996 and I still miss him as I know my children do. He was a strong, proud man with a big heart. My children have made some comments to me this morning that I will not share here but have meant so much, they have truly touched my heart.

Friday 6 June 2014

Lest we forget...

Bayeux Commonwealth War Cemetery
Today is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the photo to the right is one I took while on a research trip to Normandy. The reason why was because my PhD novel included a school trip to the Normandy beaches. I did a huge amount of research into the D-Day landings at the time and the reason why was because of my mother. She had told me tales of the night before the D-Day Landings where she had handed out sweets and cigarettes to the soldiers waiting to embark. At the time she was a WRN at HMS Daedalus near Lee on Solent. She said you couldn't see the grass for soldiers and you couldn't see the sea for ships.

The Second World War is actually very important to me. Both my parents were part of it. I was an accident and my mother was told I was the menopause - yeah right! As I said my mother was a WRN and as she admitted herself she had a 'good' war and would often regale both myself and my children with tales of her life. Don't get me wrong she also saw some horrendous things - the bombing of St George's chapel for example but she also got thrown over a wall after getting back after curfew.  My Father was an officer in the Parachute Regiment. He rarely spoke about it. I knew he always jumped wearing a white silk scarf and carrying a walking stick but his tales to me were always quite glib. There were the tales of him being dropped accidentally the wrong side of the lines and my grandmother 'seeing him' when she was in church one Sunday wandering up and down the alter. Later they worked out it was at the time he was lost. The tale he and Anthony Farrar Hockley told me of how they won the war together when I was small - I was very gullible then. However, last year when speaking to my brother I heard for the first time the tales he had told him and they were very different. I had always had my suspicions but my father had come very close to death. I knew he had killed people but I also knew he did not want to discuss it. Understandably so, why would you want to glorify it by talking about it. He was a proud man with principles. He wasn't part of the D-Day Landings, he was in Italy at the time.

It seems that the Second World War has found its way into most of my stories and perhaps that is why I am enjoying writing my current WIP so much because it is based in that period. It is an important time that we must not forget. So many gave up so much for us so we could have our freedom. There are times when I look around and I do wonder if we are beginning to forget as people stamp on others but I have to hope that goodness will win out in the end. It is important for us as a family that we don't let their stories go and disappear into the ether. I cannot forget that there were others in our family who also served and whose stories we must also remember. We were lucky everyone came home but they all knew a lot of people that didn't. Both my parents came from the same place - Croydon. They knew whole families who were decimated by war. As a member of the baby boomer generation - just - we are so lucky and long may that last. There have been other wars since then obviously which again members of my family have been involved in and survived luckily.  May our children never have to face a World War and may my parents be the last to face such a thing.

This in a way is a very personal post which I hope you will forgive and this piece of music is because my parents loved it as does my brother