by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
I just got back from London late last week, and, as always, I loved exploring the city and discovering hidden gems – places or items that I find provide unexpected insight or inspiration for my writing. That’s partly why I love traveling for research as well as fun (book research is, after all, always fun for me!) – I get to immerse myself for a brief time in the sights and smells of a place I hope to bring to life in my books. This time, I had no specific research needs and was busy showing my mother-in-law the sights, but nonetheless those hidden gems were still there to be discovered.
The first of these came on our trip to Kew Gardens when we discovered Kew Palace (which hitherto I hadn’t visited). Inside I discovered a little Georgian gem which unexpectedly fed into my current middle grade WIP. There was a hidden staircase for the servants to enter and leave rooms without bothering their occupants, mourning heraldry to be displayed in the event of a death in the family and a meal laid out representing one of the last meals George III ate (I always love learning more about food!). There was also a wonderful physic garden with some interesting medicinal herbs that I will be able to incorporate into the book as well.
The next few gems were found during a visit to the lovely V&A museum when I discovered an illustrated herbal book that had been digitized and open to the very herb I was using in another WIP of mine (references to which are found in Greek mythology). I then also discovered an instrument called a claviorgan decorated with the story of Orpheus – an instrument that could slip in nicely to a chapter in this same WIP. I was probably way too excited about these two finds that any normal tourist would be!
By the time we travelled to Bath I was ready for the next few gems, including a reference to a potential character in the Bath abbey and a visit to a charming town in the Cotswolds that had a small medieval church and graveyard that could totally be used in a future book.
You can obviously tell how much I love deriving inspiration from places I’ve been and the hidden gems I discover are always unexpected and exciting. Sometimes they even spark brand new novel ideas (now just to find the time to write them…).
So TKZers what hidden gems have you discovered on your travels that helped inspire your work?