Down the Rabbit Hole

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!

Mellington Hall, Wales

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!

12 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole

    • Yes! My mother was our genealogist and when she passed, I got all her research, photos, everything. My husband keeps asking what I’m going to do with it and can’t I put it somewhere. (I’m having bookshelves built to turn my living room into a library and it isn’t happening fast enough for him.) I love some of the stories that are in there – things like my great grandfather’s journal that talks about my grandfather “leaving on the rails today”. Just so cool!

  1. I get it! I also get excited doing research!! As well as that headache at times. I get why you were jumping up and down and so excited at your marvelous find. Too bad I’m not on any social media platforms. I could have ‘happy danced’ with you. Oh well. You did share with us today and we can happy dance now. Woohoo! Tossing virtual confetti for you!!

  2. So dedicated! I could deal with this kind of history, otherwise it isn’t my favourite subject!
    I have only visited North Wales, as a child in the fifties we stayed in a caravan near Llandudno and Conway. We visited Caernarfon castle and went on a boat to Anglesey. Loved it! (Mostly we spent holidays in North Yorkshire at my Gran’s house)
    I’m so glad you got to make the trip and hope that one day, when these strange times are over, you get to visit more.

    • I had an amazing World Geography teacher in 7th grade who taught the entire class from her own personal slides. She had been EVERYWHERE! It made it so much more interesting.
      We started in Scotland and spent 1 night in Conwy – I climbed the lookout tower, but my friend stayed where she could see walls on at least 1 side – then drove down to Mellington Hall the next day. I wish we had been able to see more of Wales, but I guess I’ll just have to do that on a future trip. 🙂
      Stay safe in this madness.

  3. Sounds like you had a great trip! Wellington Hall looks big and beautful! Seems like you had fun!

    • We had a blast! There is nothing like travelling with one of your best friends. We stayed in all the small out of the way places my husband would never consider, ate when we wanted, made unscheduled stops, … the perfect holiday. I highly recommend it – though a bit shorter and a few less stops would have been even better. Almost every night we were in a different location.

  4. What a neat trip you had. I love the look of Mellington Hall and the surrounding park. And, yes, I can get caught up in researching for my books as well. One of them in particular. Would love to travel to England one day and see some of the places I might write about. I’m delighted you had the opportunity and enjoyed the followup research. 🙂

    • Oh, you have to go! I think this might have been one of my favorites stops – the manager was absolutely fabulous. She even read my dialogue while I taped her so I could get the right inflections. We tried Marmite here – one and only time. I believe Mellington Hall is now forever cemented in my mind as my Netherfield Park.

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