It was a great pleasure to share my experiences of ‘writing in isolation’ with member of the NSW Society of Women Writers, in conjunction with the award to the new winner of the SWW/Di Yerbury writer’s residency. My congratulations to Pam Rushby (pictured left.) I hope she’ll have as happy and productive an experience as I did living in beautiful and historic Barnstaple in Devon. The Once & Future Camelot, sequel to I, Morgana, had its genesis there. My talk began with my research journey through France and in London before I began to write, and also my side trip to Glastonbury where most of my novel is set – with a series of photographs to illustrate some of the wonderful places I was able to visit.
The Once & Future Camelot follows the fortune of Marie (de France) who finds her way to the court of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and there earns her keep by reciting her lais; thus I told stories within my story, looking at where writers find inspiration plus the writing and telling of tales. I talked about the importance of walking in the footsteps of characters to take photographs and make notes, to pick up maps and guides, and also talk to locals and experts. Local knowledge adds authenticity, and can even result in new ideas and plot changes. Linking Marie to my present-day character, Morgan, is the recreation of a magical medieval garden at Glastonbury. The two women need to find a way to come together and learn the secrets of the garden to fulfil an ancient prophecy – and also reunite them with the men they love.
On reaching Barnstaple I quickly discovered that I needed a goal and a routine to keep me grounded. I aimed to write 2000 words a day – it didn’t always happen, but at least I had a target. I began my day with a skype conversation with my husband, then worked through the morning, with the promise of an outing after lunch. I used to walk through Barnstaple, exploring the ever-changing Pannier Market on my way to the river. My river walk became a walking meditation where I would review what I’d written that day and make notes of ideas for what might happen next – with a warning to members to beware of talking to oneself out loud when people are around! The ideas and notes I took helped me get started the following morning as they gave me something to work on.
The Once and Future Camelot will be published on May 26th by Momentum/Pan Macmillan and will be available from all e-book retailers. Meantime I’ll be posting more photographs and information about my research and writing journey.