Thursday, December 03, 2009

All in the name of research.

I have been reading and writing about the Georgian and Regency periods for many years, but whenever I write a new book I always find there is something that needs more research.

For the Wicked Baron, I needed to read up on the techniques used in painting frescoes. I had been looking around West Wycombe, the beautiful Italianate mansion owned by the National Trust and decided I wanted my heroine to be able to paint a fresco on the ceiling. Thankfully there was a lot of information online,including the snippet of information that Michelangelo sometimes painted alone (which is important in setting up a scene for Carlotta to meet the Wicked Baron).

For More Than a Governess, I spent a day travelling part of the old coaching road from Leek to Rochdale, stopping off at Rushton Spencer where the carriage wheel broke and my hero and heroine were obliged to spend several eventful days. And for Moonshadows, I had to try out a Porsche (well, maybe that wasn't strictly necessary, but it was fun – and I couldn't get to test drive in an Aston Martin, which is the other car featured in the book!)

When I wanted the villain to sabotage a carriage in the Wicked Baron it had to look like an accident. This meant reading up on carriage construction and in the end I contacted two carriage builders/restorers and asked their opinion – the line in one emailed reply made me smile, "1817 is a good date for sabotage"! I won't go into detail, but around this time there was a change in how wheels were fixed to the axles, making it much easier for a loose wheel to be overlooked.

I have always found experts extremely helpful when researching a book, and I am constantly amazed by how generous they are with their time and information. This is very good news for authors like myself, because their expertise makes our books all the richer.

Melinda Hammond (Sarah Mallory)


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Jan Jones said...

Interesting about the carriage wheels. And those ceilings are beautiful!

Melinda Hammond said...

Thanks Jan. The decoration in some of these old houses is really amazing - the amount of time and effort required was amazing, and most of the places were only occupied for a few months each year at the most.

Nicola Cornick said...

That's very interesting about the change in the way that carriage wheels were made. I love little snippets like that which add colour and extra authenticity to stories!

Agree with Jan - those frescoes are stunning. And I thought the way that you incorporated that detail into the story was fascinating.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Thanks you, Nicola, so glad you liked it. It's always difficult to know just what to put into a novel and what to leave out - hours of reading around a subject can result in no more than a single sentence in the finished book.