In the run-up to National Novel Writing Month, I’m doing a lot of research and writing. Yesterday, my box of research materials arrived: two DVD documentaries about life in the European Iron Age, one about the Germans and the other about the Celts; a monograph about the ideological afterlife of the Germania of Tacitus; a handbook of life in prehistoric Europe. (There were books in that box for other projects as well, but that’s for another post.) Meanwhile, I’m out on YouTube looking at videos about forensic facial reconstruction, checking out the landscapes in which the bog bodies were discovered, and taking virtual tours of Hadrian’s Wall.
It isn’t research. It’s a virtual vacation. I’m taking a long strange trip, as usual, hanging out with my characters and settling into their world. Once I know the characters, the story usually takes shape of its own accord.
The strangest part so far? Writing modern life from the point of view of a teenager from the Iron Age. Even after half an hour in his point of view, I look up and everything looks alien, and (given it’s usually on lunch hour) I have to go back to my day job, the daily details of which are passingly strange from nearly any viewpoint in the past. Not to mention my clothes, the food in my lunch, the glass windows between me and the increasingly bitter autumn wind.