Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hands-on Research

I'm not one of those writers who loves research. I regard it as a necessary evil, a sometime pleasure, but above all something that should not intrude on the page. And when you write paranormal-historical-speculative-whatever as I do, you have to weave in historical details with the world you've imagined, and get a smooth balance between the two.

A couple of days ago I visited Chawton, in Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived for the last nine years of her life. She and her mother and sisters settled there after her brother Edward became heir to the Knight fortune and provided them a permanent home in a cottage on his estate. Chawton Museum is now visited by people from all over the world. It's carefully restored but I tried to imagine what it would be like for Jane Austen to look out of the window and see ... a vampire?
Yes, a vampire. Because Edward's property, Chawton House, the beautiful Elizabethan-Jacobean house a few minutes away, was leased to vampires whose presence lent a sinister attitude to the peaceful green countryside and I'll be writing about them and Jane Austen in my next book.

I hope you enjoy these pics I took on my visit to England and which suggested to me the possibility of mystery and immortality.

This yew tree is over 900 years and stands outside Steventon church, where Jane Austen's father was minister and which she attended. Her brother James took over the parish when her father retired. Many members of the Austen family are buried there.


Gravestones and a cut back growth of ivy in St. Elphege's Church, Greenwich. The RNA Conference (the UK equivalent of RWA) was held in Greenwich, a world heritage site in London which includes the Royal Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval College where the conference was held. I'm blogging about that today at the Risky Regencies.


Gargoyles at Salisbury Cathedral, one of the most amazingly beautiful places in the world.


The mysterious, ancient cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral (and most mysterious and amazing, not another tourist in sight...)


What places have you visited where the atmosphere has got your imagination working?

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14 comments:

Jessica said...

Nowhere near as cool as that place! But I've had an idea for awhile worked on it moved onto something else and once I find the time after working on my current WIP I'm going back to my old idea.

After all that, basically when I went to my aunt's last year, like I do every year, I was looking around her town and realized that this IS where my novel is going to take place. I was looking at the simplest of places and was thinking PERFECT!

Sharon S. said...

beautiful pics! That tree is amazing. The Smokey/Blue Ridge mountains move me in a way I can't explain. I think it is the thought of how old they are and how small we are compared to them. Another place that gets my imagination going is a large museum, like the Natural History one in NY, London or DC.

Thanks for the heads up on the contest. Very easy to enter and great stuff to win!!

Sullivan McPig said...

Great pics.
I myself love graveyards and old churches for inspiration.

Lyndsey-Jane said...

I don't so much 'visit' this place as walk through it on the way to the pub but there is a graveyard next door to my university (Cambridge City) that has so many different gravestones, some of which are really really old. I love all graveyards and could wandering around them imagining the lives of those buried there for ages.
The thing I like about this graveyard is that although its situated in the middle of the city it still feels calm and peaceful,it has many nooks and crannys to visit.

Anonymous said...

Janet, I shivered reading this! I didnt know this place exisited I got some research to do but I depend on you and the blog I learn so much at! and the historical romances I read. I loved to visit Bodt's (not sure of spelling) Castle in Alexandra Bay NY, on the 1000 Islands There is a boat ride you take to one of the Islands that has a castle on it. Bodt had started to build the 100 rooms or so castle for his wife he loved but she died before he finished it so it was left in ruins. I visited it as ruins and heard they decided to finish the castle since the ruins were becoming dangerous We plan to go some year soon and see it finished! Caffey cathiecaffey @ gmail

Nicole Murphy said...

There are aspects of research that are great fun. My favourite moment thus far was when I tried to see if it's possible to wrap cling wrap around your hand to protect it and still be able to move your fingers...

I've got a project set in a cave, so I went to spend a day in the nearest cave system, to re-establish things like the sensation of the wetness on your skin. Unfortunately, I had to put that project aside when I sold the trilogy, so I guess I'm gonna have to go back to the caves again :)

Crystal said...

Great pics! That tree looks like a great climbing tree, LoL.

To answer your question, St. Augustine. Unfortunetly I haven't been in a few years but I love it there; the fort, the old school house, the ghost tours and carriage rides, the church, the little pubs & shops. And most of all the history. I remember going there on field trips too and I always thought it was way better then even Gator Land.

Janet Mullany said...

Just home from England and wanted to thank everyone for dropping by to comment. I'm SO tired but it was an excellent trip.

nymfaux said...

Glad you had a good trip!!!

I'm totally with you on hating to do research...unless it's something interesting--I hated having to site resources when I was in college, it was so tedious...

However, if it includes traveling, I'm all for it!!! There's just a feeling of BEING SOMEWHERE that you can't get from pictures, little details that spark ideas...

Amy Valentini said...

Janet, I love your pictures and yes, it is actually quite easy to imagine seeing a vampire in anyone of those spots, of course, it would be in the dark. I personally love research, I'm a research hound and living in VA gives me not only places to visit but places to research. I'm surrounded by history, stories, and some of the best ever graveyards. My newest project will allow me to incorporate info from my college studies in archeology and mythology, more fun stuff to research! Happy writing and reading everyone!

Brittony Ard said...

A place that inspires me when i think or just want to sit down and write is my garden. In the garden I just let my imagenation run wild i dont follow just one thought i let many run free and if it staays for a while it stays. I dont write down everything when im in my garden because that is the place for inspiration not a place for every little thing. If i took note of everything nothing would ever get done. My garden is the place where i can be one with the earth and feel everything it wants me to even inspiration. any one thought can inspire me there but not all can take life. Not everything needs to be free to live the way it was ment to.

Leah Clifford said...

It looks beautiful there! I loved the last picture especially.

Helen Lowe said...

Fabulous post, Janet--I'm just sorry I've gotten to it late. But in terms of atmospheric places, I think Ryoanji, the famous zen stone garden in Kyoto would be one of the most inspirational places that I have visited. It is so photographed that I thought actually visiting it wouldn't be that special, but in fact it was so amazingly atmospheric that I got up very early the next morning to go back before the crowds--a decision that was worth every bit of getting up in the dark and missing breakfast. And both the sensual images--sight, hearing--and the atmosphere have remained with me for the best part of two decades.

Steele26 said...

awesome pictures, and great post! i went to England 2 years ago and it was amazing... went to visit the Roman Bath Houses in Bath, England... what a sight that was... that really moved me, especially considering we went early winter and the bath houses are steamy and humid, the contrast in temperature conditions was really cool!