I’d like to thank Posie Graeme-Evans for this guest post about her research for just-released novel, Wild Wood. Posie is the author of several novels, including The Island House. She has worked in the Australian film and television industry for the last thirty years creator and producer of hundreds of primetime television programs, including “McLeod’s Daughters” and “Hi-5”. She lives in Tasmania with her husband and creative partner, Andrew Blaxland. You can visit her visit her website or Facebook page for more information.
How do I research?
So, how do I research? Not conventionally, is the short answer. Once I have the seed of an idea, or a figure appears and starts to talk to me as Bayard did before I had written a word of Wild Wood (yes, come on down Dr. Jung!), I’m off and running, and I’ll find myself chasing the story as it unfolds.
Early drafts of a book are like watching the first cut of a film in the edit suite as the core of the idea stumbles to express itself. It’s always too long, too discursive, shaggy, baggy, not nailed but I start to get excited by the possibilities. And then I always, always want to go there.
I want to find the buildings, see the people in their landscape, listen to the wind, or the sea, watch the sky, track the sun or the moon through the seasons… Romantic, nebulous, but for me, a real part of what I do in holding words on the page.
Of course, though, once characters have properly established themselves I’ll research facts, real people – if I need them – and real events, clothes, food, setting, what might have happened; but Wild Wood is pure fiction, though based at quite a number of removes, on an actual Scottish legend. And I’ll take the facts I need from anywhere – love Google!; Love actual, physical books too (from all eras, only wish I could read Latin!) And images of all kinds as well – maps, paintings, sculptures, mosaics…
This will sound strange, but the setting chose me. I’ve been obsessed with Scotland for some years and, truly, that landscape wherever you are has been soaked in blood; there’s never, ever any shortage of story material. For Wild Wood though, I began with a legend: the gift of the Fairy Flag to the MacLeod of the Macleods when he married a fairy woman 1,000 years ago. Wild Wood doesn’t have a flag, but perhaps it does have a woman from another realm and… (no, no spoilers).
And yes, I did travel to the UK – the Scottish Borders, mostly, though the Western Isles also when I was searching the actual setting. It’s Scotland’s landscape and the light that inspires me – they’ve sunk, deep. And once back in my office I work with photographs close by. If I’m stalled, I’ll scroll through what I’ve shot and something bubbles up.
Weather! Snow, sleet, rain (I always seem to find myself travelling in the dark seasons of the year; I like that, more drama in the sky and less people on the ground.) But I’ve learned to dress for warm hands, head and warm feet. Crucial!
I honestly think filtering is a deeply subconscious process. I have no ideas why some ideas are fertile and some are not in story terms, but that’s the case. And, draft by draft the story just clarifies … as if you’re bubbling stock in a pot and you skim off the stuff you don’t want, and then, overnight, it sets!
I’ve always been inclined to believe in ghosts but never experienced them. And then, this time, in January this year, I did.
It was in an C11th Priory Guesthouse – Monkton Old Hall in Pembroke – for pilgrims on their way to the tomb of St David (the patron saint of Wales). Something knocked at my door in the still hours the first night we were there. Because I’d been sick I couldn’t sleep and had only just turned out the light, but Andrew, my husband, and I were the only people in that place and he was asleep in another room. It was not a dream, it was real, and the phrase “blew my mind” now has real resonance!
And, when I got home, I found accidental validation when I was looking for pictures of the priory guest house and saw, in Google, the entries relating to the ghost. The same thing has been happening for hundreds of years. And I heard it!
For Write Note Reviews’ thoughts on Wild Wood, click here.
Very interesting! I’m really looking forward to reading Wild Wood.
What a wonderful insight into your approach to research. I felt like I was in Scotland with you, following the threads of your writing journey.
What a wonderful insight into your research process, Posie. I felt like I was in Scotland with you, following the threads of your story. Thank you.
Thanks for the comments. Sometimes writing drives me crazy but I’m always glad when the book’s finally out and the feedback begins : )
Thanks Posie, for your time in preparing this guest post AND for giving us all such a wonderful book in WildWood. You have a new fan in me!
Sometimes, on a day such as today, I’m glad I persevere with writing!