A writer on location

My latest book is out to agents – fingers crossed.  Although, I won’t be too disappointed if it’s not taken up as I will be excited to see what I can do with it myself.  Early readers have been enthusiastic and reckon it’s more commercial / an easier sell than my normal scifi.  This latest venture is a detective mystery with a supernatural / magical edge.  It grew out of several short stories centred on the main character, an Inspector Kirby.  Once again it shows the value of shorts stories to the novel writer (something I’ve blogged about before).  So, what’s this got to do with me being on location?

Well, the book is set where I grew up and went to university, Northumberland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  If you know the region it’s full of history, castles, magnificent scenery and in my opinion a magic of it’s own.  Or at least if there is magic in the world that’s one place I’d expect to find it.  It’s the perfect setting and in many ways becomes a character itself.  If you don’t know the area, treat yourself to a visit.

I enjoyed writing the book so much that I’m already half way through the follow-up.  However, this time the back drop is a little more specific in that it features Hadrian’s Wall and the other numerous, fantastic Roman sights that abound in that part of Northumberland.  Now the internet is great for providing pictures and all the facts that I could possibly want.  However, this time I wanted to get more of the feel of the places into the story.  So luckily I was able to spend a week up there, with the bonus that the whole family came along.  One of the first thing I did was take a ten mile walk between the Roman forts of Housesteads (Vercovicium) and Chesters (Cilurnum ).  It was a sunny yet windy and none to warm day, but good for walking and perhaps hinted at the conditions those Roman soldiers would have faced when posted there.

Seeing the wall first- hand again (I haven’t been there for twenty years) was wonderful.   Begun in AD122 they built most of it in about six years, some achievement when you see where it is.   I stood on the natural outcrop that formed the first part of the walk and looked out over wild moorland.  A scene that might not have been too unfamiliar to those soldiers.  I touched the stone, observed the magnificent workmanship, trod the route between forts and mile posts that those Roman feet must have taken.  I got a feel for the geography and the scale of the accomplishment.  I stood in the mileposts and forts.  I visited the Temple to Mythras at Brocollitia.   I took photographs and soaked it all in.  I’m sure all that will help bring my story to life.

Later in the week I visited the fort of Vindolanda, where excavations are still ongoing.  Again this emphasises the scale of the investment of both time and effort.  The museum there gives a wonderful glimpse into the lives of those stationed at the wall.  It’s there letters were discovered describing the minutia of everyday life .  A letter talking about the delivery of socks and underpants to one soldier.  Another letter is between two sisters one sending her best wishes on the other’s birthday.

I know as writers our stories can take us anywhere and in my case any time.  In my science fiction the places I describe only exist in my imagination and then hopefully in the imagination of the reader.  All that is immense fun and part of the appeal for me in writing science fiction.  However, to write something set in the present time (well mostly – you’ll see if you read the books) brings its own delight, especially in this case when it’s a part of the world that I have strong emotional ties to.  Added to that I got to go back and visit – it would be hard not to be inspired.

As always comments are Welcome

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer