Friday, June 11, 2010

It's Complicated

I've long been a fan of novels spanning more than one time period. I love it when an author writes a character both from their adult and younger selves. One such novel is Days of Grace, which I'm really looking forward to reading. (You can see Kim's interview of Catherine Hall over at What Women Write.)

I've written in multiple time periods before, but for some reason, I'm struggling with my WIP, THE ARCHITECT AT HIGHGATE. Although I've researched heavily, I still find my self stopping mid-sentence to learn what Italian immigrants ate during the Victorian era or the name of a famous architect.

My HIGHTGATE computer folder is filled with word docs and spreadsheets to keep track of my plot and characters. I'm thinking of working in some historical figures, like Giuseppe Mazzini or even a famous author or two. I've set up a family tree, a detailed outline, lists of details about architecture and churches, nuns, music halls, restorations. Some of my charts are more complicated and haphazard (and blurry!) than my desk.

Most of you know my obsession with Kate Morton's novels, House of Riverton and The Forgotten Garden. Ms. Morton is a master of weaving a complicated plot, then tugging the reader along a journey where it all comes together seamlessly. How does she do that?! Does she use spreadsheets and timelines and family trees?

My current diversion is locating an historically accurate map. Many of the street names have changed and while I use the internet as much as I can, interactive maps of the past are not always available and most are not very legible. (I've previously blogged about, which is the most complete website on the era I've found, created entirely by author Lee Jackson .)

I picked a street off Red Lion Square for the home of one of my characters. In the 1850s, the street was named Prince's Street, and was later renamed Princeton Street. But were there were single family homes on the street? If so, do they still stand? Are any still inhabited by families or have they converted to businesses and charities as did those on Red Lion Square? I want so much to get it right. I am pining away for a book called The History of London in Maps, but it's $75 and in light of my recent splurge on research books, I just can't justify buying it right now and the library doesn't have it. (Anyone in Dallas have a copy I can borrow?)

In my obsession with detail, am I somehow making this manuscript too complicated? For some reason, I'm struggling more than ever before. Advice anyone?


Kim Bullock said...

Welcome to my world, Joan! Now you see why it is taking me so long to write. Even though it is fiction now, I want to get everything as right as I can.

Joan Mora said...

Agreed, historical accuracy definitely makes fiction more compelling.