JOURNAL, Hertfordshire, 26 August 2016, Early morning.
Weather fine. Another warm day to come it appears. We depart tomorrow for France. Little is packed as of yet, but I’ll do that later today. Much to do before….
In Conventions, a variety of historical figures appear in places, times and contexts that conform to their actual lives (insofar as I can reasonably manage – this is fiction, after all). I strive to make the fictionals similarly “real” and even have “years of birth” in mind: “Robert,” 1765; “Henry,” 1765; “Marie-Thérèse,” 1768; “Carolina,” 1770; “Charles,” 1755; “Jacques,” 1755; “Amandine,” 1774, etc.
I’ve decided also to include what was common in the later 18th century: travel journals. In this case, it will be one kept by “Robert.”
Working away yesterday on Conventions, at one point it struck me again how you may outline and pre-plan a novel to the smallest degree, but that’s nowhere near the same thing as actually writing it. I find some of my (in my opinion) “best” stuff comes via improvisation and even accidentally…. while I’m actually writing. Such is how real life itself, too, often unfolds for us, of course.
I thought it might be fun relatedly this morning to share some “quick hit” samples that may give a “feel” of fictional characters within the tale and their time. They “co-exist” amongst what were real historical people. Among the fictional, first and foremost, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is the New York-born twenty-something around whom the tale unfolds:
And he’s just the start.
There’s the (initially 17 year old) daughter of an English baronet:
I don’t want Conventions to be too similar to the Atlantic Lives novels (which I plan currently to return to after Conventions). It’s a huge challenge as a writer to try to head down a different path. But tackling new challenges is what authoring is all about: if you stay in your “comfort zone,” you’ll get stale.
For the first time I’m discovering the real challenge in being original is to be original again and again. We all have distinctive styles and I’m increasingly seeing what constitutes mine. We are inherently ourselves as writers, so it’s exceedingly difficult to avoid writing your previous books… over and over.
But this latest one has to be different in a variety of senses. First off, it will take place mostly between 1787-1795. That alone makes it a true “historical” effort – none of us living remember that time.
We’re going to Bordeaux, France, in a couple of weeks’ time for a one week getaway. We’ve rented a holiday house on the coast. I am looking forward to it immensely partly because I’ve already decided the city will feature in the new book…. and getting details on the ground there is a bit like “location scouting” for a film.😉
France has been a major part of the backdrop – in case you have somehow missed this – for what I’ve written and write about thus far. I make no claim to being an “expert” on it; but I’ve visited various parts of the country and spent quite a bit of time there over the last nearly thirty years. (OMG, did I just write THIRTY?!) All told, it is by far where I’ve spent the most time in my life after here in Britain.
I’ve got so much going on right now. My head’s spinning. To better explain what I mean, first here’s that excerpt again in case you missed it the other day:
I’ve got that French ship captain, who I’m finding is quite an interesting man as a write more of him. And of course there’s the “heroine” in that scene as well (but I don’t want to tell you yet who she is or what she’s doing where she is). That’s just for starters.
One of the troubles with writing is you feel awkward discussing what you did at work today with those humanly closest to you. It is simply too difficult to explain. It just feels more comfortable to take to a keyboard and share it online with social media friends and readers who follow because YOU want to.
Meaning that here on my own writing site I’m not risking making a total “bore” of myself (I hope).😉
But one of the challenges in sharing what you did at work is if you include any excerpt it also shouldn’t give away too much; inadvertently “spoiling” your own upcoming novel is, frankly, idiotic. However, yesterday’s work, and this morning’s, was full of plot detail and “surprises” that I just don’t want seen yet. That said, having scoured it, I think I can share this:
I wrote back in February that a visit to Chesham, just outside of London, made such an impression on me that I decided it would be a good setting for part of Conventions. Bath is so well-known, I’d thought – especially in 18th century terms – I’d use somewhere “lesser known” to many readers. That pleasant town really does fit the bill.
We know for most of history traveling was not nearly as easy as now. Fiction has also always been around. Clearly given how difficult and expensive travel once was, many authors never got anywhere near the places they wrote about and neither had probably most of their readers.
Ah, texting/instant messaging on our phones. Part of the great communication revolution. A wonder of our time in history.
You may recall a “Valérie” from the conference call(s) post about my wife’s airline consulting role. Given that, this Messenger chat we had yesterday was perhaps, uh, unintentionally hilarious. Having opened an exchange between us with a reference to “Valérie,” my wife was reminded how “autocorrect” and/or “predictive text” may catch us out at times: