London Research Trip

Being a writer is a pretty cool job, though sometimes I think if people knew what I really spent much of my time on (a lot of computer busy work) they'd be a little disillusioned.


BUT. Last month I got to do something pretty fun and blog-worthy in the name of writing--taking a trip to London to research the setting for my latest work in progress, the second book in the Madman's Daughter triology. I spent five days visiting museums, parks, and various neighborhoods of ill repute. My husband came along as butler, but I’m pleased to announce that after a few drinks at a pub he was promoted to writing assistant.

Getting to travel for research is definitely a major job perk (though not funded by my publisher, as many people seemed to think. It was funded by moi.) I wrote my first novel, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, while I still had a full-time job. It takes place largely on a tropical island off the coast of Australia and since I had no idea it would ever be published, not to mention that I had no time and money, a trip to that part of the world was out of the question. So I did research online and in the library and I pulled on memories of various places I’d been. Since it was a fictional tropical island, the setting was mine to make-up.

Book #2 in the series (still untitled) is different. It takes place entirely in London in 1896. Through the Internet and research books I can learn about Victorian life, dress, and society at the time, but London is just such a well-known city that I felt I couldn’t write the book nearly as well without having actually been there.

Creepy historic operating theater

Our itinerary was packed. The first day we had friends show us around Trafalgar Square and Soho, and rode the London Eye to get a birds-eye view of town. You know, kind of casing the joint.

The next day we rode the tube out to Kew Gardens, with its twisting old trees and beautiful glass houses. That night we went to Whitechapel for a Jack the Ripper tour with patent “ripper-vision” that made you feel like you were really back in the late 1800s at the scenes of the murderer. “Ripper-vision” turned out to be so grisly one lady fainted. So you know it was good.

Site of good chase scene, no?

Then we visited the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain to participate in a séance. There’s no séances in my series (at least not yet), but it seemed like a good writerly thing to do whilst in historic London and all that. I have to admit, this one was a little disappointing. The medium was off her game. Apparently I have a lot of deceased family members trying to get in touch with me that I don't know about.

The rest of the trip we spent at the Museum of London, that had a great Charles Dickens exhibit, walking around the Belgravia neighborhood, visiting a Chelsea home from 1895, and lamenting our aching feet.

I also had the treat of meeting up with my UK affiliate agent, Caroline Walsh, and also with a fellow Lucky 13 author (and editor) Amy McCulloch, whose book The Oathbreaker's Shadow also comes out in 2013. Amy recommended Troubadour Café, an awesome old atmospheric place where I could picture all sorts of shady intrigue happening. 

Lunch with new writing friends