Displacement Activities

This has been one of those weeks of urgent work with very little to show. A few days ago Simon and Schuster let me know that there were another three books needing to be proofed, and suddenly there were three more titles to look at.

And they were good books, too. The Abbot’s Gibbet, The Leper’s Return, and Squire Throwleigh’s Heir. All hold a special significance for me.

Three more titles to check as proofs.

Three more titles to check as proofs.

The Abbot’s Gibbet was originally going to be called Widecombe Fair. I was convinced of this title – a rare event – because I thought that the name would resonate with people. So I persuaded editors and agents alike that this was to be my blockbuster novel.

Then I went to research the book. Nothing. I found nothing anywhere about Widecombe Fair in the 1320s.

Well, such things happen. Hitler bombed the British Library a few times. It was flooded more than once, and over the centuries unscrupulous types have used books and records for firelighters, so I wasn’t unduly concerned to learn that there was nothing for me to get my mitts on. I gave up with the British Library and came to Devon, where I searched diligently through the Devon and Cornwall Record Society, the Archives, the Devon and Exeter Institution, the University … everywhere I could think of.

Eventually, desperate, I sought the advice of the Cathedral Librarian.

“I’m looking for anything about Widecombe Fair in the 1300s.”

“You’ll find that hard.”

“Why?”

“Widecombe Fair started in the 1800s.”

I still like the story.

The other two are special, too. They bracketed my move to Devon. The Leper’s Return was the last book I wrote in Surrey before our move, while Squire Throwleigh’s Heir was my first book written in Devon after the move.

Leper was a great book to write. I had to research this fascinating disease, repellent in so many ways, but also humbling. When you see the photos from the Scandinavian colony islands in the late nineteenth century, it is hard not to be affected. And then, when you read how lepers were treated in the fourteenth century, often for people who had nothing more than a form of psoriasis – well, whenever I went to give a talk on the subject, I used to get quite choked up.

Thanks to Chris Chapman for this picture.

Thanks to Chris Chapman for this picture.

But Squire Throwleigh was the one that really grabbed me as I was writing it. The whole book was based on some recent history that shocked and stunned the whole country, and I wanted to write it for a long time, but it was a matter of finding the right way into the story. And then, while walking my lovely, sorely missed old girl Hattie, after moving to our new home, I discovered Shilstone Rocks, and the location, the wild, barren, desperate scenery gave me that immediate connection. I knew I had a place that would drive my story, and with that came all the characters and themes. And rereading it today, the book still works very well on many levels.

But rereading your own work is tedious. It’s not something you want to do. So as my displacement activity of the week, I began to test and document all my collection of sixteen inks in a Conway Stewart Churchill pen with a medium nib.

I know. I’m a sad character!

Diamine's Oxblood, Deep Dark Blue, Prussian Blue and Blue Black

Diamine’s Oxblood, Deep Dark Blue, Prussian Blue and Blue Black

Diamine's China Blue, Saphire Blue, Teal and Conway Stewart Green

Diamine’s China Blue, Saphire Blue, Teal and Conway Stewart Green

Diamine Kelly Green, Emerald, Saddle Brown, and Waterman's Havana

Diamine Kelly Green, Emerald, Saddle Brown, and Waterman’s Havana

Diamine Sunshine Yellow, Passion Red, Grey, Deep Dark Blue and Mont Blanc Black. I'll stick with Deep Dark Blue

Diamine Sunshine Yellow, Passion Red, Grey, Deep Dark Blue and Mont Blanc Black. I’ll stick with Deep Dark Blue

Advertisements
Comments
5 Responses to “Displacement Activities”
  1. Nice pix MIke. Still got the Tilley hat you bought in Canada?

    Like

    • Too right. I stick to an Akubra for the winter and for when it’s raining, but the Tilley is the best summer hat! Thanks for the retweet, by the way. Hope all’s well up north!

      Like

  2. Debbie says:

    Desperate, weren’t you?

    Like

  3. Such wonderful colours! Maybe it’s time I bought myself a fountain pen again.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: