Friday, 16 November 2012

Listening to the characters

The last signing session this month took place in Torbay (see above) and was, by all accounts, great fun. A pattern sees to be evolving whereby a group of readers are all there together at the beginning of the signing and a conversation builds up with Marcia answering various questions. She loves this sort of interaction with her readers – far better than just sitting there signing books. Of course, it does rather depend on the size and shape of the shop.

Two events this year did include a more formal talk and question time: the one in the Liskeard library and the evening spent in Saltash.

Anyway, with the signings out of the way we are back to creating the best possible situation for Marcia to ‛listen to’ her characters or, if you prefer, for the ideas to flow more freely.

With most of the books there has been a particular place – or group of places – where she has been acutely aware of her characters and it has been in those that they have become fully rounded.
This robin was to appear in the book. He is perched on a gorse bush in the place where we would park and look across to the 'High House' and 'Summer House'. Shortly afterwards, all these gorse bushes were burnt down (probably by accident) but by then the book was finished.
In the case of The Summer House this was a place on the Toll Road out of Porlock from where you could see the field in which Marcia set the High House with its Summer House. In the case of Echoes of the Dance it was beside the ford at Bowithick while the cliffs above Trevone did it for The Christmas Angel. In these cases, the exact location of the book was known but that is not always the case.
The ford at Bowithick
We have never really pinned down The Keep which is in the Chadwick Trilogy and The Prodigal Wife. Yes, we know it is in a triangle bordered by three roads but where in that triangle remains a mystery. Oddly the same thing is true of house that Henrietta is minding: somewhere near the villages of Crowcombe and Stogumber but that is the closest we every got to it. Even so there were particular places: a field running down to woodland where the cuckoo called not far from Rattery for the trilogy and the area around Robin Uprights Post on the Quantocks.
The cliffs near Trevone on Cornwall's north coast
The same is true of the book Marcia is working on at the moment. There is this hamlet and we now have a pretty good idea of what properties there are there and we have created a sketch map which will probably be changed a bit as time goes on. Having said that, we have no real idea of where it is (other than on the flanks of Dartmoor somewhere) but we do know where Marcia is finding inspiration and we have been visiting there whenever we have had the time and the weather has been reasonable. It is a shock for us to be doing this at this time of the year. More usually it would be from late April to the end of May and we would have our coffee – from the hamper in the back of the car – while sitting out on our faithful folding chairs.
The Two Bridges Hotel huddling in the valley on a very cold but clear day in March
Not now. It is far too cold and so, and for us very unusually, it is a question of finding places to go in for the odd bit of refreshment. I suppose it is possible that some of them might even appear in the book. So far we have been to the Two Bridges Hotel, the community shop in Holne which also includes a small café and the Dandelion (a sort of café bar associated with the Moorland Hotel near Haytor). 
Holne Moor is my favourite part of Dartmoor.

The distinctive outline of Haytor
Well that should narrow things down bit.
On our return from The Dandelion the heavens opened for a moment and the rain came sizzling down. Then the shower stopped as abruptly as it had started and for a moment the setting sun peered through the clouds to outline the tors in the distance.