The joy and curse of writing is research. I will be the first one to admit that, though I had great potential, I was not the best student. I believe my love/hate relationship with research was part of the problem.
It was mentioned on previous blogs that I am a bit of a history geek. Heck, as a child, I dreamed of living in Virginia just because of all the historical sites. So you can imagine that whenever a Regency Era project requires a bit of research I am in heaven. And therein lies the problem. Once I start researching, I don’t want to stop. (This is what we call a rabbit hole.) You learn what you needed, but then you just keep going … and the writing becomes second to the research. Well, I am proud to say that I am getting better about bookmarking interesting information to return to later, but once in a while a neat thing happens when I am on a research jag and I have to share it. In this case, it directly relates to my trip to Wales in 2018.
You might be able to tell from my name that I have ties to Great Britain. Chisholm is Scottish and I have wanted to travel around Scotland since I was in high school. A very good friend agreed to go with me and the plan became a reality. During this time, I had been working on a project that was to take place on the border of Wales, but my characters had a distinct Scottish feel to them. Of course, this meant we had to go to Wales while there and our 7 – 10 day trip became a 15 day trip. (Hey, we looked at it like a once in lifetime chance and tried to do it all.)
So how does this all tie together? Well, one Tuesday evening during this whole self-quarantine, social-distancing episode, I was working on my book and suddenly realized that what I wrote prior to the trip had me too far south. My coach was travelling through Gloucestershire when they should have been in Shropshire. I dug through my maps from my trip and discovered I only had Scotland and Wales – my travel companion must have gotten the England map. So, onto the internet I went.
In doing research, I have discovered that, for the most part, new major roads follow or are near old roads. It is a great starting point. I found an area in Shropshire that I wanted to use and then went looking for old maps to confirm which towns were there in the early 1800s. This is where it got good.
The old maps can be hard to read, but you can match landmarks to new ones to determine where you are. I was trying to find names of small villages near Bishop’s Castle, but had to blow the map up so large to read it that I quickly lost my place. Frustration was setting in, so I scrolled to the far left of the map and, low and behold, there was Montgomery!
“Montgomery?” you ask.
Yes. Montgomery, Wales. In our travels, we passed through Montgomery on our way to the manor house where we stayed. Slowly, I scrolled southeast and … there it was! Mellington Hall!
In that instant, I was a kid discovering Santa in her living room. I was giddy, fairly bouncing in my seat, and so tickled that I had to tell someone. Then I remembered my husband and daughter couldn’t care less about history, England, Wales, any of this. But that wouldn’t rain on my parade. I opened my Facebook page (something that is not allowed to be opened when writing for obvious reasons) and messaged my friend, attaching screenshots as needed.
With my enthusiasm appeased for a bit, I closed Facebook and went back to work. Villages were selected, screenshots printed, routes highlighted, and notes made. Now, with a headache from squinting at tiny print in ancient handwriting, I shut everything down and proceeded to share the remainder of my giddiness (which had waited patiently just under the surface) with my husband and daughter. I was right, they didn’t get it. My husband looked at me like I was crazy and my daughter said, “You said we wouldn’t get it, so why are you telling us anyway?” Because it was just so cool!
So, here it is days later and I am still a tiny bit giddy over my discovery. And who better to share it with? All you crazy JA fans, writers, and readers who probably get it too.
Hope everyone is staying safe and well in this crazy time. Keep reading and remember this too shall pass. Oh, and if you signed up for my newsletter, the first issue will go out on April 16th. If you haven’t done so yet, click HERE!