Susanna here, with what may be a shorter post this time, thanks to the fact that my trusty travelling computer is being obstinate this evening so I'm writing this on my cellphone instead (a Decidedly Slow Process for someone not used to typing with her thumbs 🙂
But since I'm in Scotland at the moment doing research for my current book, and since I know that many of you like to know what we get up to when we're working, I thought I'd share some of what I did today.
Today the sun was shining, so I went to Leith. Of all the locations I need to scout here for the book, Leith's are almost entirely outdoors, and much as I do enjoy walking in rain, even Scottish rain gets a bit soggy at times. Besides which, when I'm scribbling things in my notebook and trying to take photos, sunshine's a definite plus.
Anyone watching me walking around during one of my on-location visits must think I'm a little peculiar. I walk a few paces. I stop. I stand and look intently at…something. The water, or a building just across the water, or a clump of grass beside the water, or the shadow of a cloud. And then I take my notebook from my pocket, scribble madly in it, snap a picture, and move on.
Today I did a lot of that, but I also wandered.
I used to, years ago, think I was making these trips just to get my details right; to know the way the air smelled and the way things looked and felt, and where the sun set in the evenings. It was actually my mother who first pointed out that being on location is a key part of my process, because while I walk the same ground that my characters will walk (or have already walked, if they're real people from history) I'm absorbing not only the atmosphere but their whole world, and very often this is when they'll start to take shape in my mind and move and speak to me.
So I ended up here, at the corner of Giles Street and Spier's Place, surrounded by buildings that were entirely the wrong age for my book, and yet feeling myself compelled to stop, and scribble in my notebook, and take photos.
Because my heroine was standing right beside me.
I'm back in my little Edinburgh flat now, sorting through the day's notes and the photographs I took of views and buildings I specifically intended to. I've also learned Spier's Place didn't exist until 1875, when it came into being as part of an improvement scheme that saw eighteen old closes demolished.
All I need to do tomorrow is find a map that will show me those eighteen lost closes, and maybe then I'll know in which one my heroine lives…
Have you ever wandered off the beaten path, and found something wonderful?