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’d posted a few weeks ago that we’d found George Bernard Shaw’s house, known as “Shaw’s Corner,” in neighboring Ayot St Lawrence. The other day – Sunday – with my nephew, who was visiting us for the weekend, we walked back there again and actually went in to see it. Admission is £7.50 per adult, and worth it.
I thought I would use this post this morning to pause and simply say “thank you.”
For starters, I say “thanks” because I’ve gone from of course virtually no one reading this blog in its infancy in December 2013, to a LOT more of you now, many of you on a regular basis. Over the years quite a few of you have been buying my books also – a fact which, when I think about it, truly humbles me. That you do always drives me on to make the next novel better than the last one.
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’m at last getting back to work now that the house move is largely finished. You may recall that I’ve written previously that I managed to get through BOTH The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. (Author Herman Wouk is now 101 years old!) Written in the 1960s and 1970s, both massive novels (over 1,000 pages each) were famously adapted for American television in “big” productions in the 1980s and were huge hits.
But like too many other novels, I’ve felt those television versions, while they had their moments, didn’t really do full justice to the books. Yet maybe it is unfair even expecting that they could have?: the books are of an incredible scope and complexity. It’s almost as if the words “novel” or “book” are insufficient to describe them.
One fault that can be found with them, however, is their scope is so gigantic that reading them can feel at times like trying to wade through an encyclopedia…. only suddenly to find yourself in the next chapter joining fictional characters trading barbed comments and sexual innuendoes at a formal dinner. That said, they also have some great characters and too many memorable bits to begin to recount. They are amazing writing efforts.