I'm very excitedonly three weeks to go now until The Mapping of Love and Death, the new novel featuring psychologist and investigator, Maisie Dobbs, is published.
In my last newsletter I said I'd be telling you more about my research for The Mapping of Love and Death. In some ways that background work never endsI find I cannot walk down a London street without imaginging how it might have looked and sounded some eighty or ninety years ago. However, my research can be firmly divided into the classic categories, "primary" and secondary." The sheer number of books, papers and maps covering the years 1910 to 1940 filling my shelves speaks to the depth of secondary research any historical novelist will embark upon. And I'm not necessarily looking for hard factsdates and namesbut those small snippets I can use to give a sense of time and place; the building blocks of scenes that convey the reader from the present into the past. The "primary" research is where walking the streets comes in, or hours spend in a museum archive, or talking to family members who "remember when."
The Mapping of Love and Death opens in California's Santa Ynez Valley in 1914, with a young Bostonian, Michael Clifton, looking out at the tract of land he's recently purchased. The California Oil Museum in Santa Paula, California was the perfect place to find out more about the early days of oil exploration in California. Looking at the old black and white photographs of the region drew me in until I felt my feet firmly on the soil of 1914. There's a sweep of highway between Ventura and Santa Barbara that commands a breathtaking Pacific Ocean view. I've sometimes complained about the oil rigs offshore, however I wonder how might I have felt in 1914, when instead of a highway there was a rough wooden trestle for a road, and the surrounding hills were covered with derricks as far as the eye could see? Old tourist guides to the region deepened my knowledge of the Santa Ynez Valley, and in my mind's eye I could clearly see Michael Clifton surveying his land on a hot day in early August 1914. Soon he will go back into Santa Barbara where he will buy a newspaper with a headline that tells of war breaking out in Europe. It seems that in an instant his life changes forever. Inspired by the news, and the fact that his father is an English immigrant to America, Michael changes his plans and travels to New York. From there he will sail for England, where he intends to enlist in the army. Michael will never see the sun-kissed California valley again.
The Mapping of Love and Death will be available in bookstores on March 23rd. My book tour begins in April, so check out the Appearances page on my websiteif I am in your area, it would be lovely to see you at one of the events.
With all good wishes,