Okay, it’s contemporary. I don’t have to read up about food, clothes, furniture etc. from a bygone age. It’s set in the English Lake District, an area with which I’m very familiar, so you might wonder why I need to do any research, but I’ve had to look up (or at least check) quite a lot of details.
Also, I decided my hero was going to be the local vet (actually I think HE decided!). What do I know about vets? Nothing. More research needed!
When I started the novel back in January, I thought it would be interesting to make a list of all the topics I’d ‘googled’ as part of my research. Sometimes they were simply to confirm something I knew (or thought I knew), and in many cases they were only needed for one line of dialogue. Here are some of them:
Supermarkets in Ambleside
Traditional Cumbrian surnames
Lake District tourist sites, for details of cottages to rent
Photos of Lake District in winter
Sculpture trail in forest
Interior of church in the ‘real’ village I’m using (although giving it a different name)
Veterinary surgery – staff/responsibilities etc
Vet. emergencies in countryside
Farms in Hampshire
Wood burning stoves
Edinburgh vet school
Info about broken ankles, plaster casts, splints (including a request on FB for personal experiences of breaking an ankle)
Walks around Grasmere
Lake District estate agents (for hero’s house) – floor plans etc
Foaling – time taken, possible problems
Activities for children in Lake District
Typical Geordie expressions
Dogs’ ear infections
Using brand names in novels
Tower of London – ravens
Lady Jane Grey
Child custody cases
There were many others similar to the above, and others where I didn’t actually use the information I’d looked up.
I’m about half way through the novel, so who knows what else I’ll have to look up before I get to the end? So, even for a contemporary novel set in an area I know well, there’s still a lot of checking and research involved.
With each novel, I’ve learnt a lot of new things. I now know what a Nemes headdress is, I know what correlation spectrometers measure, I know how much it costs to stage a London musical, I know how often the Eurostar runs from London to Paris and I know about dogs’ ear mites. All wonderful, although probably useless, trivia, but it’s all part of the fun of being a writer.