As I’m muddling though with the research stage of novel number three, and characters and plot begin to swim into focus, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the scenes set forty-odd years ago are going to be both the easiest and the hardest to get right.
Easy because the young lovers I am portraying are so vivid in my mind. Every time I stop and think about them more aspects of their personalities and relationship become clear, and I have some very detailed character profiles shaping up.
But hard because the world they live in isn’t this one – and isn’t one I’ve ever experienced first hand. I know there’s nothing unique in that: plenty of novelists set their stories in times and places much more distant than 1970s Brixham. And I know I’m not writing a factual piece – I don’t need to get every little detail spot on. But I still want it to be authentic, to have the air of travelling back in time.
One discovery I’ve made this week is going to help with that. As part of a general organising spree I found a box full of letters from my past – not quite as far back as the period in which the novel is set, I think the earliest ones date from the late 80s. But still reading them through served as a valuable reminder not only of what it really feels like to be a teenager, but also the very different way in which people communicated in a world before the internet. I’m looking forward to creating snippets of my characters’ correspondence, to seeing how their relationship develops when they’re apart as well as when they’re together.
I’m also looking forward to finding a bit more out about my town. I’ve been extending my internet research this week, searching for pictures and stories from the Brixham of 1973 to 1982 (or thereabouts). Actually much of what I’ve found so far suggests that an awful lot has actually stayed the same, though I’m sure were I to ask someone who has lived through the changes they would be able to give me a far more accurate impression of the time I’m travelling to.
So that’s my next step, really: to find some people who knew Brixham in the 70s and pick their brains. If you’re reading this and you think you might be able to help then please get in touch! You can comment below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to find out what I might discover…