So, day two of work on The Forgotten Son, book one of Project Hush-Hush. Yesterday was all about setting up the scene and mystery in the small Cornish village of Bledoe. Which meant research. Hard to believe but there was a time when I hated, and by that I mean loathed, research. These days I rather enjoy it — with every book, every scene almost, I learn something new or reaffirm something I had previously suspected.
Before I got on to talking about yesterday’s research, and shed light on the rather odd subtitle for this blog entry, I want to share a little history about Bledoe. It has a history that goes back to 1997, and a story I once wrote that was originally called The Lake (latterly WATMIB? or Who Are The Men In Black?). They say never throw away a good idea, and I’m a great believer in that. Bledoe was a fictional Cornish village where some strange things happened. I can’t tell you what, alas, since many elements from that story are being recycled for this new book — including the final title, The Forgotten. I have recycled characters from this story before. Pastor Ronald Stone was finally used as the father of chief protagonist, Nathanial Stone, in my Space: 1889 & Beyond series from 2011. A character called James (surname changed from the original book) was later used in the 2006 novella Judgement Day (the character is now closer to his original incarnation once more). So it was inevitable that Bledoe itself would be returned to at some point. The village has changed somewhat since 1998, now based loosely on the real village of St Cleer. Which is where the first bit of research came into it. Sometimes the challenge with writing is to convince the reader that you are familiar with the area you set your story in; not always is it possible to visit said location. In this case I intend to visit St Cleer in a couple of months, do some on-site research to add more flavour, but for now it’s time for the usual research methods; internet sites and, in this case, a batch of photographs sent to me by fellow scribe, Sharon Bidwell, who recently visited Golitha Falls, another key location of The Forgotten Son.
The second important piece of research is the time period. In this case we’re talking late 1960s and, since I wasn’t actually alive at that time, I have no memory from which to draw. Luckily I know plenty who do, and there are a ton of websites out there that give information on the political and popular climate of the late ’60s. Again it’s all about convincing, adding enough flavour to give a sense that the narrative is set when it’s supposed to be set. This not only comes down to small background elements, like key events of the late ’60s mentioned in passing, but in developing the characters. They all need to be believably part of that time period. I have already decided that two of the characters will be twins, who will be based somewhat loosely on two friends of mine (with permission — the fictional twins even bear the middle names of the real twins), and so the next thing to consider is how to make them different and yet very much teenagers from 1969. I was expecting to go for flowerpower but instead discovered that the skinhead movement rose to popularity in 1968. Bonus! If asked, I would never have considered developing a skinhead character (or a lemon, as they were often called, too — hence the title of this post), but I’m willing to try new things when writing — indeed, doing so is a key element of keeping writing fresh. It’s a funny thing, growing up in the ’70s and ’80s I was always aware of skinheads, but what I knew of them doesn’t match with the origins of the movement. Which means developing my fifteen-year-old skinhead should prove very interesting. And reminds me of some of my favourite ska and reggae songs from the period — Desmond Dekker’s The Israelites anyone?
That was yesterday. Today? Today it’s all about introducing the lead character of the series — the single most important scene of the book — which involves a bit more research. Not for the character, so much as what he does and the organisation he’s a part of. Ah, useless clues. Gotta love ’em! 😉