Write what you know – or what you don’t know?


Siverstone 006

Those of you who know me in real life know that I am not a petrol head. In fact, at the moment, I don’t even own a car. I have access to my husband’s, which is useful for the weekly shop but, much of the time, I get about on foot, or on my bike. It suits me.  However, I was, at one point, inspired to write a book about motor racing: it seemed to tick a lot of boxes; money, glamour, foreign travel, hunky men, pretty women etc etc. So I contacted an F1 racing team – there are a lot in this neck of the woods – and they took me to Silverstone for practise day. It was fun, it was certainly noisy, and I was royally entertained by their hospitality and sponsorship team. I got to look at the cars up close, I saw them zooming round the track but (unsurprisingly) I never got into one, let alone drove it. And then I came to write the book and I found I couldn’t – my imagination refused to make that leap so I could describe what it must be like to travel, at a zillion miles per hour, in a tiny carbon-fibre box, with your bum just inches off the ground, and with cars all around trying to squeeze you off the road. Nope – just couldn’t do it. All that research and I couldn’t write the damn book.

This is probably my fault. Maybe I didn’t do enough research, didn’t talk to the right people, didn’t work hard enough. However, I’ve got a suspicion that I am one of those people who need to  experience things at first hand to make sense of them. In many respect I am incredibly lucky; my early career path gave me the opportunity to sail, ski, rock-climb, pot-hole, abseil, water-ski, fly gliders… As I say, I was very lucky and I find that I can remember – even thirty or so years later – what it was like. I have vivid memories of how much my knees shook, how sweaty my palms were when I walked backwards over a cliff, attached to safety only by a harness and, what looked like, a very thin rope. If I ever need to have a heroine abseil I shall be able to write the scene in graphic detail.

On the other hand, there was no denying that the research I did was fun. It was a wonderful opportunity to get the other side of the security barrier and go places I never would be allowed under normal circumstances. So I can absolutely understand the allure of research. Sadly though, I think I’m going to have to remain an author who writes what she knows.

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