This week we had one of the hottest days of the summer so far, which means over 90F, very humid, and miserable for running outside, but I came downstairs with a jacket over my arm. I was convinced I’d need it. Why? Because the book I’m currently writing is partially set in Ireland and I’d have needed the jacket. In fact one of the working titles for the book is simply, The Irish Book. We actually flew to Ireland to research it. We were there for almost two weeks and then we flew to England to research another book. I’d never tried combining research on different books before; it was a little odd, especially because the book set in England isn’t the one I’m working on, or the one after that. It was especially jarring to have to take my head out of the Irish book, which I am currently writing, to a book so far down the road. It made sense to piggyback the research since the two countries were geographically so close, but as a writer it was harder than I thought it would be to try to juggle such different projects and different kinds of research.
England was having a heatwave while we were there: 70F with some days reaching 80F, unheard of there. Ireland ran between 40F to mid-60s. I don’t think it even reached 70F the entire time we were there. It rained, at least a little, every day in Ireland. The sun would come out and it would feel warm but if you stepped into the shade it was suddenly much cooler. We had to buy rain gear because our good rain coats were at home. It was wet, drizzly, and very autumn there every day. This was high summer, and the locals assured us this was summer weather for them. It was even a little sunnier and nicer on some days than typical for the season.
Lough Tay in the Wicklow Mountains.
Air conditioning didn’t work well the entire time we were traveling this trip, except for one room in England. In Dublin we left the windows open and ran fans, sometimes it was okay, but one night it was so hot and muggy in the room that it gave me a migraine. There are no screens on the windows, so if you sleep with them open to help with temperature you have to risk wildlife flying in, and if on a low enough floor, people maybe creeping in – not very comforting. In fact, when I first realized the window challenge I was quite unhappy with it, but once I was up and writing at the desk the damp and autumnal chill worked for me, worked for the book. One morning in Dublin I wrote 18 pages. The book was going well, and then we had to leave for England.
This is my fourth trip to England, to London, and I can finally say that I’m not a city girl, not even for London. Unfortunately all our business kept us in the city, and we only had one day to escape to Somerset, Glastonbury in particular, which is my favorite part of England. But I didn’t escape to the countryside until after I’d been a guest at my first European SF Convention, done an amazing 4 and half hour signing at Forbidden Planet, and finished the research for two books down the way. I’ll probably be blogging in more detail later about the convention and the signing. Thanks to everyone that helped make both a great experience! When work was done we could take a day to truly play, and we did, but one day didn’t make up for nearly three in the city. Though the research at the British Museum did its best to make up for anything and everything. Its my favorite museum on the planet to date, and the wonders on display take days to see. I felt very privileged that it was part of my job to roam about in such a magical place. There will be a blog just about the British Museum, but it will have to wait until this book is complete.
I made notes and outlines for the book that will be set in England, but I was still trying to write on the Irish book. I’m not sure I wrote more than five pages at a sitting the entire time we were in Britain. Partly I was having to think of a different book altogether to do this research, and partly . . . a lot of things, but I only figured out one problem this week.
Do you remember where I said I wrote 18 pages in a morning in Dublin? When I hit that kind of page count the book is set and going well. Its very unusual for me to hit that high and then fade down to almost no pages. We were traveling, and that can make it challenging to write, and I was still making progress on the current book. We got home from Europe and I was making pages steadily, but never to the point I’d been in Dublin. Then, two weeks later we had DragonCon in Atlanta to attend, and though a wonderful and fun event, it was too soon after a month away from home. So tired, not even DragonCon could really fire me up. I enjoyed it, but not like usual. I wanted to be home for longer than two weeks. I have never been so tired of staying in hotels in my life. It ranked right up there with the 26 cities in 28 days tour of Narcissus in Chains in October of 2001. Yeah, not a great time to be flying. Hands down the hardest tour we’ve ever done.
This week Jonathon and I had to drive out of town and stay in yet another hotel, because of family illness. The family member is out of the hospital and back home, but it was serious, and accordingly stressful and scary. Normally, that kind of event derails me for days on a book, but not this time. I got up the next day and wrote ten pages. Yay! I did it again the next day, and the next, and the next. It’s not eighteen pages, but ten is a good daily page count. So I’m finally back into the swing of the book after nearly a month. I know I am, because I brought my jacket down to wear on a day that was so hot I didn’t need it. I brought the jacket downstairs with me because I was thinking about Ireland. I’d have needed the jacket there.
I’m missing Ireland because the book had settled into being written there. When a novel hits a certain productivity for me I need to stay put. I need to finish writing it where I am. Which means I should have stayed in Dublin with the rain, and the autumnal mist, and the trips to the mountains where everything was so green and lush, but not a tropical kind of lush. Ireland is different than I thought it would be in some ways, and in others exactly as I’d dreamed. Maybe if I wasn’t writing a book set there, and reading tons of books I bought there for more research, I wouldn’t be missing a country that I visited for less than two weeks; but all the above has combined and I’m homesick for a country that isn’t mine.
When I explained that to Jonathon he offered to bring a hose to my office, so I could have the constant rain. I said, thanks, but no thanks. *laughs*
When I type ‘The End’ on this manuscript I think this strange nostalgia for an alien land should pass, but I’m already making a list of things I didn’t get to see/experience in Ireland, so maybe not. It didn’t feel like home when I was there, Glastonbury, England feels more like home, but it’s not Glastonbury that keeps calling me back.
I have stood on the Hill of Kings and touched the Stone of Destiny at Tara! Amazing energy, amazing moment! I have walked inside Newgrange with its swirls and spirals, which is hundreds of years older than the Great Pyramids. We saw both on the same day, and it deserves a blog to itself soon. I have seen the mummies of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin, which was probably one of my favorite things we did there. I’ll talk more about St. Michan’s in a different blog. We walked around Dublin until we began to know the city and were able to find our way around. I kept mishearing St. Stephen’s Green, as St. Stephen’s Gallows, which gave the beautiful park in the middle of Dublin a very different meaning. I’ve seen Irish deer and watched two tiny, spotted, fawns play fight as if they already had a rack of horns atop their heads. I’ve seen lakes, forests, or what’s left of them, peat bogs, moors, and more streams and waterfalls than I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve stood on the cliffs above the Irish sea, and found caves there, and then watched the tide fill them back up and make them too dangerous to enter. I could not have written this book if I hadn’t gone, or I would have gotten it wrong, and every person who knew Ireland would have known I hadn’t walked the streets, eaten the food, drank in the pubs, listened to the stories, seen the people, touched the bullet holes in the post office. Ireland isn’t something you can fake. It’s not the travel ads on television. It has nothing to do with American St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not sure how to explain it all, but as I write the book I’m figuring it out, because part of why I write is to discover, to clarify, to understand, and finally to share the adventure.