Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thieve a few

A little piece of NZ, framed especially for you.

I think I may have lost my marbles. Do tell me if you see them rolling around anywhere, feel free to collect them up and keep a few cats' eyes for yourselves, I won't miss the odd one or two.

I have been planning a novel for some months now and next month I am going down to South Island to carry out research for it. I don't have to: in theory I could find all the information I require at my local libraries or from contacts I have made in South Island, and it's going to cost me an arm and a leg, but I really feel I need to experience the place I am writing about first hand. Plus, as there is a lot of oral history in NZ, I need to go to the place itself for that.

I don't want to give too many details away other than to say it is a variation on the idea of a triptych and already it is consuming me. I made a start with writing a few "scenes" back in June, to get a feel for my characters. Much of what I've written so far will not make it into the novel but it has served a very useful purpose, and been worth every word, to really bring my people to life.

This is the first novel I've tackled that's had me scared. I am worried I may have bitten off more than I can chew but there's nothing I love more than a difficult challenge: if something's not hard, it's not fun for me. So I'm doing as much research as I can to be as prepared as possible for everything I am throwing at my characters, and I'm chomping at the bit to find out what they're going to throw back at me.

I've never been to South Island before. When I started planning this novel I spoke to librarians - they were fantastically knowledgeable (as you would expect librarians to be) and went way beyond the call of duty to email links and things they thought might be of interest to me weeks after I had initially queried them! I was given contact details for people living in the place I am going to and was offered free accommodation! I asked an architect about a building and he offered to check out all the details on buildings in my story for accuracy! I have never encountered enthusiasm, helpfulness, generosity or trust as I have found from the people of New Zealand (except, maybe, in the UK! - Especially me, when I lived there!). But seriously, I've been blown away by the offers I've had. So this post is really a big thank you to New Zealand for all the opportunities it has given me.

The only downside is that I have to plan the whole trip! Everything requires timetabling and, as I have droned on about before, I really am not bedfellows with numbers. And the nearer the trip gets, the more stressed I get about catching the plane etc on time, and the more difficult I find organising all of the other things for the correct times and dates. It's giving me headaches - I need to eat some feverfew. I much prefer organising novels than trips! So my marbles have started disassembling and I may loose a few for good. So, go on, take some, I hope they are more use to you than to me!


catdownunder said...

All the research in the world is not a substitute for the actual experience. Trust me (like a used car salesman or politician perhaps) I know.

Andrea said...

Sounds very exciting! My so-called novel idea fizzled away to nothing, but I'm hoping it may appear again at some stage. In the meantime writing other things is keeping me entertained. I hope you have fun when you come to the South Island - there are plenty of cool things to see and do down here!

Rachel Fox said...

I have a brother in South Island. Might get there one day!

Rachel Fenton said...

There's a little irony to be had in the fact that I don't think a book can bring to life a place I want to write about in my book to bring it to life! If you catch my drift?! I trust your wisdom, Cat, in nine lives you must have accumulated a fair amount!

Andrea, I am really looking forward to it, though I'll only be down in the Otago region I hope to come away feeling like I know the place inside out. I'm taking my daughter with me but leaving bub home with his daddy so I should get plenty work done plus a little girly time! I'll have to arrange more trips for another time to soak in the rest...I like to get to know one place at a time, properly, rather than the touristy Island swoop thing!

Hey, Rachel, that's cool - I don't know what to expect. I'm assuming it'll be much colder than Auckland though - we had tee shirts and crop trousers on today and were still too warm - spring is here at last!

steven said...

hi rachel - lucky you to get to travel to research a novel that you are going to write! lucky you!! i say lose your marbles, once they're gone you'll notice the clickety clack sound you've likely grown accustomed to will be all gone and you'll be able to really focus on your writing!!! ha! have a peaceful day. steven

Donna Hosie said...

I've just returned from the South Island - Christchurch and the surrounding region to be exact. Had a fabulous time and am now planning a return trip in January taking in both islands.

Enjoy your research, Rachel. I agree with our feline friend; nothing beats the actual experience.

Thomas Taylor said...

I wish you good luck with the trip, Rachel, and I'm impressed that are going to the trouble -- I think the internet has seduced many of us into thinking we never have to leave our armchairs.

Rachel Fenton said...

So that's what that sound was! Ha! Thanks for that, Steven!

Donna, lots of cool people live in Christchurch, I'd like to see what the place is like, and to find out if there really is secret smog there! I have a notion that I might like to live down there. Glad you had a great trip.

Thomas, thanks. I think I could justify it more if I had an agent/publisher awaiting the finished MS, but I am doing this with no reward in sight other than the thrill of it. I am slowly stocking my very own library!

Rachel Fenton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Loving the sound of this novel. I hope the research trip goes smoothly.
THe fact that it's scary is good, I think. It means you are pushing your oen boundaries and that's hard but rewarding, I guess. Good luck!
I LOVE your blog post pic, btw. V cool.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks, N, I've been wittering my head off about this novel/trip! I've definitely left my comfort zone! I only hope it will pay off and that the writing will benefit from the effort.

Glad you like the pic - there are loads of those frames scattered all around NZ, and it was nice of the gull to pose whilst I faffed with my camera!

Mary McCallum said...

Hi Rachel - I did what you're doing for my novel The Blue. Like you I encountered nothing but enthusiasm and support for the venture but like you I was nervous about it, not least because it involved living and working with former whalers and current DOC staff - watching for whales in southerly gales and going out on boats to follow them. All way out of my comfort zone. And yes, I could have found out a lot of the stuff I needed from books etc but going to the place I was writing about gave me so many unexpected things: those fine details of place and people, the language the locals use, the grittiness and adventure of their lives. Being there, changed the whole course of my book. It took on another life. Good luck with your trip. I am sure you will be delighted with what you find.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks Mary, your research trip sounds like it was awesome. I think that a small part of my fear is just what you say about the things I find out in my research changing my plans for the book, but I'm half looking forward to that also. Mostly just the scale of the project is scary and having so much encouragement from all of these people (which is wonderful) means I have to really deliver the goods. And I don't want to let anyone down, least of all myself!
My previous fiction has been of and about things I understand and know about and am confident and comfortable with, this is ...well..I've got to learn about a place and people I would have previously never have known about, lots of different things I know nothing about basically. And then I have to write convincingly about them all. Slap on top of that all the other threads and yarns that go into a story and plot, and then chop it all up and it will hopefully come together to be the novel I am trying to create.