Slowly but surely the world of my next novel is beginning to take shape…
I’ve had two really interesting research meetings so far with local people who responded to my request for information about Brixham in the 1970s. Last week I finally made it into our local museum to see some artefacts from the past. And as I walk through the streets of my town its history is beginning to become more and more apparent.
I’ve learnt about the changing face of the harbour, with working shipyards once occupying the sites of luxury flats. About the Seaman’s Boys Home which is now a flourishing outdoor education centre. About the holiday camps which saw people flocking to Brixham, enjoying diving platforms off Breakwater Beach and pedalos at St Mary’s Bay that are now long gone. My imagination was piqued today by talk of an untamed Berry Head, and of the hippies who used to attract admiring glances to their paintings by day and raise eyebrows with their skinny dipping by night.
I found interesting too the description of the local community as incredibly friendly and welcoming on one hand, and yet closed off to outsiders on the other. I can recognise that to some extent. However much I’m coming to love this place, I know I’ll never truly be able to call myself a local.
But I’m beginning to see where my two main characters might fit in here, forty years ago. Where their grandparents might have lived, where and how they might have spent their days, where they might have socialised, and where they would have escaped to when they needed some privacy. There’s still more work to be done – the local library’s my next port of call (always takes someone else to point out the bleeding obvious), and I’m going to try to fit in a visit there this week.
And then I think I’ll call it a day, for now at least. I believe there’s a fine line between not enough research and too much, and I want to get this story flowing whilst it still has space to breathe. The people I’ve spoken to so far have very kindly offered to do some fact-checking once I have a first draft to show them, and I’m sure our conversations will be able to be much more specific once I actually have a story to share.
I have to say I’ve really enjoyed my face-to-face research so far. I was nervous at first – I’m naturally quite shy, and feel much more confident seeking out information from the comfort and security of a keyboard. But there is most definitely much to be gained from talking to people, especially when the world you’re seeking access to is in the past.
I just hope I can mange to do their memories justice – and I’m very much looking forward to trying.