Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Research (yes, really, not a holiday at all)

Back from Moscow, and it was pretty cool. Amazing city and I'll feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.
I went because a large part of The Dark Goddess is set in Moscow and I needed to get a touch of gritty authenticity into the story. Devil's Kiss was easy, set in my home town of London. But having now set that presidence, the next book had to have the same street-level appeal.
Can't get that out of a guide book.
Where to begin? Monolithic. Noisy. Epic. Marble train stations. Fire dancers. Drunks. Vast cityscapes. Illegal car racing. Very very cool.
I've visited a house where, apparently, satanists congregate. It was down a dark art-lined passageway and a black cat slept peacefully on a bronze bench. Saw the amazing Faberge eggs at the Armoury and minute portraits of the tragic Romanov children painted on petals. The seven sisters dedicated to a tyrant and war hero.
I've so much to go on, it'll take a bit of time to filter through and focus on the details I need, rather than throw everything into the book willy-nilly.
THE BODMIN ACCORD. This is a trio of chapters that relate to Devil's Kiss and The Dark Goddess. The full piece will be up on the website shortly. Here's the opening.

The Bodmin Accord-Part One
“We’re lost, Art.”
“Bloody hell...”
The flashlight came on and bobbed up and down as they ploughed across the muddy farm track. Percy kept his eyes on the few yards of rain-smeared earth and his hands tight around the steering wheel of Arthur’s old Jaguar.
“I told you we should have taken the jeep,” he muttered.
“Just...shut up, Percy,” said Arthur.
The underbelly of the car groaned as it scrapped over a semi-buried rock. Percy winced as he heard the exhaust rattle and break loose. Then it began clanging loudly, filling the interior with a dull metallic din.
Arthur snapped the ordnance survey map over and flattened it over the dashboard. The white beam of the torch splashed across the contours and narrow yellow lines of pathways and Percy caught a glance of Arthur’s old Royal Marines compass. The green cover was chipped and the lid held together with glue and tape. He’d told Art to get a new one but Art wouldn’t listen and there was no point arguing.
No one argued with Arthur SanGreal.
“Stop here,” said Arthur.
Percy slammed down on the brake. He hoisted up the handbrake and sighed. He’d pushed the car-seat back as far as it would go but he’d still driven the entire journey from London with his knees up by his ears. He’d kept his head as low as possible but with all the potholes and trenches around here he’s spent the last hour banging his head against the ceiling. He unfolded himself out of the driver’s seat and groaned loudly as he stretched. He tilted his head hard sideways, pulling at his thick neck muscles until something cracked.
“Jesus, that’s better,” he said.
“Don’t blaspheme, Percy.” Arthur surveyed the dark moors with his binoculars. “Wake him up. We’re here.”
Percy hammered the rear passenger door.
“Oi! Gwaine!”
There was shuffling from within and the door opened. Gwaine peered out, rubbing his rough hands across his face.
“We there yet?” He didn’t look impressed. “I need a piss.” He yawned and walked over to the opposite side of the car. There was a sharp snap of a zip and then the patter of urine on earth.
Percy buttoned up his jacket and pulled down his wool hat. The last time he’d been out here was his Escape and Evasion training with the commandoes. He’d hated it then, too. The moors lay dull and desolate under the brooding cloudy skies. The moon was well hidden, leaving only a faint halo of shimmering cold white beyond the few cracks in the cloud cover. Stinging icy drizzle swept across the rolling landscape, whipped up and over the low hills and dull valleys. He’d met Arthur here. They’d both applied to join the Royal Marines and earned their berets together. He glanced over at Arthur. He’d been a different man then. Hard, practical, but a laugh, someone who enjoyed life no matter how bad it got. He missed the old Arthur and maybe, deep down, he hoped that man was there somewhere.
“What’s on your mind?” said Arthur, not lowering his binoculars.
“Better days, Art.”


Lia Keyes said...

Oh so very envious! What an adventure - and it sounds like you made the most of it. Loved your list of random coolness: "Monolithic. Noisy. Epic. Marble train stations. Fire dancers. Drunks. Vast cityscapes. Illegal car racing. Very very cool." Yeah, baby, yeah!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I'm really interested to know how you find the experience of writing/rewriting having actually visited Russia - just how much of a difference it makes.
And loved the piece you posted - don't you love how one's writing just keeps improving the more one does it!?
Nicky xx

SarwatC said...

Oh, the Moscow section of the first draft is totally going in the bin.
The setting and talking to locals has made me apprecaite the subtle differences ebwteen Russians and Brits. These need to be developed so the Russian characters don't come across as Brits with funny accents.
Bloody hope the writing's improving. I'd hate to think I'd peaked already!

SarwatC said...

Oh, dear. Sorry about the spelling in the above.