Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ask The Expert

I am currently in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside celebrating my mother’s 84 birthday. Since I have limited time on the Internet—the only signal I can find is on the top of a hill next to a field of cows. This post may seem a tad hurried.

It’s always lovely to come home to my roots—especially since both my series are set in my old stomping ground. As always, I make the most of soaking up the atmosphere (did I mention it was raining?), taking lots of photographs for reference purposes and talking to people in professions connected to my various plots. For example, last night I attended the Diptford Chapter of the Women’s Institutes. It was hilarious. Members were invited to share “memorable stories.”  One had us all in stitches with her memories of working on a London double-decker bus as a “clippie.” Another had been a prison warden in the 1960s. Today, I am talking to a retired undertaker and tomorrow I’m visiting an old stately home with a haunted grotto.

But it’s not just about getting ideas and doing research (and having tax write-offs). It’s also an opportunity to double check facts.

The first book in my new series—Murder at Honeychurch Hall—features antique toys. During a brief stay in London, I met with Rachel Gotch from Bonhams Auctioneers, who—along with her husband Leigh—have been the toys and collectible specialists for the past fifteen years. I had a fabulous tour of the warehouse. Having already turned in said first book, I was dismayed to discover that some of the information I’d found out on the Internet was wrong! Nothing substitutes a phone call or a visit with an expert … even if you discover that the location of the warehouse is not in central London but a £50 cab ride away—which was exactly what happened to me.

But it was worth the trip. My husband called from home that night and told me that my copyedited manuscript would be waiting upon my return so I can fix those errors.

Oh—and every time I’ve approached an expert, I’ve always found they are thrilled to be asked.  I always thank them in the acknowledgement page and send over a book.

Okay...the cows are getting restless and it’s started to rain. Again.

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