Inside Articles

Home Biography Novels Musicals Contact Me Links
The Inside Story Heartwood Excerpt Bloodstone Excerpt Foxfire Excerpt



Cannibalizing History-Part Two:
The Traveling Writer

My love of research has taken me to a tithe barn in England and a sheep-shearing festival on the Hudson; to the palaces of James IV in Scotland and a “black house” on the Isle of Sky (where my friend Robin and I nearly suffocated in the peat smoke).

As a traveling writer, I carry a small tape recorder so I can read educational signs aloud, dictate observations, etc. It’s faster than jotting notes and easier than dragging around a laptop. You tend to get stares from people who overhear you mumbling to yourself, but once they learn you’re a writer, they accept your odd behavior with equanimity.

In writing my first novel – The Spiral Tattoo (as yet unpublished) – I read countless descriptions of brochs (tower houses) from Dark Age Scotland. I looked at photos of ruins and drawings representing historians’ best guesses of what one might have looked like in its heyday.

But only when I visited Scotland and actually walked around inside a couple did I really “get it.” I realized I’d have to rethink both the far-too-luxurious digs I had created AND a good deal of the action that took place inside. (How could a hundred people sit down for a fabulous feast in a chamber that’s only thirteen paces in diameter?)

When it came time to create the world of Heartwood, I had to take a refresher course in primitive. The earliest critiques likened Darak’s hut to Doctor Who’s spaceship – bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. Going back over the notes of that Scotland trip (as well as others to Neolithic cave dwellings) helped me to create a village that Bronze Age families might conceivably live in.

If you’re going to write about living in another age – fantasy or historical – the best way to make it real is to experience as much as you can – whether that means tramping around a battle site or squatting beside a rotary quern.   


Back to The Inside Story

Looking for Websites that offer writing tips?
Click on the Links page.



Home Biography Novels Musicals Contact Me Links


Questions? Comments? Feedback?
Contact me