Monday, 24 March 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour


Simon A. Stirling has tagged me in the Blog Hop talking about our writing process. I only know Simon through Facebook, and enjoy his posts very much. I am also a great admirer of his books, 'Who Killed William Shakespeare' and 'The King Arthur Conspiracy' - very interesting books indeed. Simon posted about his writing process on his own blog last week, and you can read it here.

So, now it is my turn to answer the questions that we have all been invited to answer as part of this fascinating blog tour.

1. What am I working on?

At the moment I am doing research for my next book together with the story-line and character development. I love to make lists, so this is how I start with my research. One list for names, one for architects of the time that I will be writing in, and a list for the 'everydayness' of that period. For example, how people would be living. What were their homes like? How were they furnished? What would they be eating? How would they cook it? What were their clothes made from?

My WIP which has the working title The Touching of Stones, is about a family in the 15th Century whose men folk are stonemasons carried on from generation to generation. My novel will be featuring The Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin glen, Scotland, St. Giles' Kirk, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Chichester Cathedral in Chichester, West Sussex, England, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, England, and the Basilica Santa Maria del Fiori in Florence, Italy. Beautiful buildings, each one unique, with stone work so magnificently tooled, and stained glass windows which demonstrate the ultimate art of storytelling.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My first book Future Confronted was a biography, so this will be my first venture into writing historical fiction, so I am going to endeavour to be original. It is a story that I have had roaming around in my head for some time, and the main premise, as I said earlier, is about a family whose men folk are stonemasons working on churches and cathedrals. I love the history of stone-masonry, and the people whose ideas have come to life that we now see in the cathedrals around us, one of the most extraordinary examples of the intricacies of their art being in Scotland, and it is The Rosslyn Chapel.
The Apprentices Pillar, Rosslyn Chapel
So from that point of view, I think my novel will travel a different road from others. I envision it being at least a three book series, maybe more, running from the 15th century through to the 17th century, following the generations of one particular family.

3. Why do I write what I do?

The love of history, the love of history, and the love of history, it's as simple as that. I have always been fascinated by history, and the people of different times. I have my favourite periods, which are wide ranging, going from the ancient Roman period through to 12th and 13th century  England, and 12th to 15th century Mongolia, having studied Genghis Khan and his descendants. I also love the period that I am writing about at the moment. I love the architecture of this time, as always, architecture is an exemplar of the era, a bookmark if you like, of how the world was during that time.

Churches and cathedrals have their own special styles, their own special...fingerprints if you will. There is so much to consider when building a church or cathedral. Apart from the time it takes to build, some taking longer than 100 years! There is the hewing of the stone from the quarries, the transporting of that stone, the gathering of people, the craftsmen for the different aspects, the stained glass windows, the dressing of the stones, the flooring, and the arches. It leaves much for the author to play with. All the lives involved, all the different paths the story could take. It's almost a carte blanche situation, as long as the history isn't tampered with.

4. How does my writing process work?

Well, I get an idea, I write it down in my 'Ideas Book' which I keep by my bed. I am very often awake for a few hours in the night, so I am either reading or writing down ideas. I then transfer the idea to my WIP book. Here I do spider-grams of all my ideas. For example, I would have my main idea in the centre circle ( and I am not talking Google+ here!), and from that I draw spider's legs with more circles. These circles will have the 'cast of characters'. From there I would take each character and have him/her in the centre circle with the spider's legs radiating out each with their own circle, and so on. When I am happy with that, I give each character a life. This is something that I learned to do at university when I was studying creative writing. We were taught that if you give your characters a three-dimensional life before you write about them it makes them feel like real people. So I give them traits, for example how they would speak, what they like and dislike, give them their little idiosyncrasies, you get the idea. I'm sure this is common practice for many writers.

I like to have pictures of the places that my story will visit. I have them pasted in my Ideas Book, together with maps of the towns that my story will visit. Going to the places that I am writing about also helps. It helps with the research, as does taking many photos. It gives more of an atmosphere to the writing process. The visits evoke the senses, and the imagination.

I like to write straight on to the laptop, and just keep going. I try not to take notice of mistakes as my priority is to get the basic idea down without double checking myself, there will be plenty of time for the editing process later. Sometimes I am totally surprised where my story is taking me. Who knew? So then I have to carry on writing, just to see what happens! I like to make sure the history part is correct, I can't change history, but I can change my story to fit.

For me, the research is most enjoyable. I love it, just love it. Sometimes I go off on a tangent just through the reading, and wonder if I can perhaps fit that piece of history in as well...So, that is me. That is my writing process.

Following me on The Writing Process Blog Hop Tour is Rob Bayliss whose blog can be found here. I know Rob from the Facebook group The Review Blog page where I am on the Admin team, and where we both review books. Please meet Rob Bayliss!

My name is Rob Bayliss. In all honesty I've always been a bit of a history geek, and a sci-fi and fantasy nerd. I've recently discovered the joys of writing and I'm currently working on a clockpunk fantasy series. I also review books for the Review Blog, which is a great way of expanding my reading experience.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Researching My Next Book


Well, it's almost three months now since my book Future Confronted was published. It has been some what of a journey I have to say. The learning experience is something I wouldn't have missed, it has been a real eye opener, what with the proof-reading, and the copy-editing. I have had some lovely 5 star reviews on which have touched my heart, and I thank all those who took the time to write one. I am hoping to get my book into libraries, and because I have had some great feedback on the book, I think it will serve me well, and I look forward to seeing it on the non-fiction shelves.


More than two years before I finished Future Confronted, I had started researching a story which I longed to write, one mainly set in Italy during the 15th century, but included a long journey. I love this era in Italian history, it's so varied, so interesting not only politically, but with the church and with art. I had a germ of an idea grow while I was daydreaming looking from my bedroom window out across the sea. The boats in the marina were bobbing up and down, swaying from side to side in the wind, their ropes clanking on the masts. Before I knew it, I had an outline in my head which tucked itself away for a rainy day. The idea surfaced, and I tinkered with it, and tucked it away again while I got on with Rob's story.


So, I'm no longer daydreaming about this long thought of novel, I'm doing more research, a most enthralling process. I love making lists about my research, so there's a list for serious notes, one for doing spider-grams for my story-line, one for researching names, architects of the time, the 'everydayness' of the period. Working out what these people in my imagination would be eating, drinking, laughing about is taking over my thoughts.

Rosslyn Chapel
My novel will be featuring The Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin Glen, Scotland, St. Giles' Kirk, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Chichester Cathedral in Chichester, West Sussex, England, Canterbury Catherdral, Kent, England, and the Basilica Santa Maria del Fiori, in Florence, Italy. Beautiful buildings all. Each unique, with stone work so magnificently tooled, and stained glass windows which demonstrate the ultimate art of story telling. 

St. Giles' Kirk
I have long been fascinated by cathedrals, the messages that their stone work tempts us to unravel. The lives of those who worked on them. How they lived, their families, their fortunes, their misfortunes. The life of the stonemason must have been a really hard and a difficult one. The art and technique of shaping stone into a three-dimensional form is a magnificent gift. To be able to portray one's ideas from mind to paper, from paper to stone, is a process that I have often admired. I have never been to Rosslyn Chapel or St. Giles' Kirk, but I have seen with my own eyes the splendour of the other cathedrals. I will be visiting Scotland later, and will be visiting both the Rosslyn Chapel and St. Giles Kirk, and I am looking forward to it very much.

Chichester Cathedral
The Cathedral at Chichester is just twenty miles from my home. I visit several times a year, because it holds a special place in my heart. A magnificent building standing tall with its now unused bell tower standing off from the main building. The spire can be seen from the bridge that connects Hayling Island, where I live, to the mainland. It stands out like a beacon, as it must have been all those hundreds of years ago when it was first built.

Canterbury Cathedral
In Kent there is the world famous Canterbury Cathedral, the place where Thomas Becket was murdered. A place of pilgrimage for generations. Its magnificence is breathtaking. Its history, although well known, must still hold secrets. There is much literature about Canterbury, the stories, the mysteries, the lives that have been consumed in the building of it.

Basilica Santa Maria del Fiori
Then there is the Basilica Santa Maria del Fiori in Florence, Italy. My word, my word what a wonderful building. So much architectural knowledge in the building of its magnificent dome. The Basilica is so very different from the other cathedrals in Scotland and England. It is an icon of design. It provokes in the imagination the wonder of how it was first conceived. How the impossible became possible. The other cathedrals are magnificent, each in their own very special way; but The Duomo, as it is commonly known, can be recognised from afar, even by those who have never seen it before with their own eyes. Its iconic terracotta brick dome, the largest ever constructed, its Baptistery, and Giotto's Campanile are superb. The coloured stonework and the statues that are placed in and around the walls of the building are staggering in their detail. When I first saw it, I was spellbound, rooted to the spot in awe. The stories of the lives of the people who were instrumental in the construction of the Basilica can only be imagined...the hardship, the sacrifice, the hard labour.

So begins my novel. From here, from my imagination, I will tell the tale of one person who travelled from Scotland to Italy... and when there..... Well now, we will have to wait and see where the story takes us.....for I have no doubt, no doubt at all that even I do not know where that will be....