Jessie: In New Hampshire, surrounded by family
I know that I have previously mentioned on the blog that one of my favorite parts of my job as a novelist is the research. That pleasure has only increased since I turned my attention and efforts to writing historical fiction several years ago. But something I am not sure that I have mentioned, is how my research influences my life and the experiences I begin to wish for, and vice versa.
It feels a bit of a chicken and egg situaton. Do I have a notion for a story and a desire to dive headlong into a topic because the interest lay latent within me already? Or does the rabbit hole of research spark fresh questions and notions that blossom into new curiosity and urges?
Many examples of this spring to my mind as I recall books I have written over the years but the one that occurred most recently pertains to painting. For some reason or other that I cannot for the life of me recall, I decided to make the character of Charles Jarvis, a country solicitor in my Beryl and Edwina mysteries, an enthusiastic watercolorist. It is not a major point in the early novels but it has allowed for the occassinal dropping of clues and provides insight into his feelings for Edwina.
But as the series has gone on I found myself repeatedly researching the sorts of tools and techniques Charles would employ as he pursued his passion. I discovered the kinds of brushes and easels that would have been available in the early 1920s. I looked up antique paint palettes and types of paper. I found myself drawn to online exhibits of watercolor paintings. I downloaded an app on my phone that sends me an image of a painting to view each day at noon.
Before I quite knew what had happened I bought a few modest supplies of my own and challenged myself to a project that involved a small watercolor sketch each day for 100 days in a row. It ended just before Mother’s Day 2020. When asked how I wished to be feted by my family I surprised myself by requesting a gift of an easel and oil paints. Like Charles, I ended up painting out-of-doors more often than not. Like Charles, I possess more enthusiasm than skill.
But I have high hopes for us both. In my upcoming release, Murder in an English Glade, I was taken with the notion to send him to an artists’ colony where he improves his skill set simply by being in the presence of other painters. Not long after I completed the final page proofs for that particular novel I surprised myself by signing up for a plein air watercolor class. Perhaps it will work as much magic on me as the colony has for Charles.
I still wonder if Charles paints because I wanted to, or if I have started because his passion intrigued me. In the end it, it likely doesn’t matter so long as both the books, and my life, are the better because of it.
Readers, do you find yourself drawn to books that cover topics that already interest you? Or do you stumble into new interests by dint of your reading? Both? I have ARCs of Murder in an English Glade to give away to three randomly selected commenters.