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Thursday, October 08, 2020

A walk around Ryhope researching my new book


This week I went for a walk around Ryhope village and colliery as I near the end of my research for my next book set there in 1924.  Walking around Ryhope is something I always do when I've finished my research and almost ready to begin planning out my books. I like to walk the streets and try to see Ryhope through the eyes of my heroine who I'll bring to life in the pages of the book.

Whilst I was out walking and researching, I couldn't resist posing for a photograph with my new book The Girl with the Scarlet Ribbon which has just come out in paperback. I'm pictured in front of a house in the village that I used as inspiration for The Uplands in the book. 


Walking around Ryhope with my 'writing head' on, I see things I usually miss, and I tune into sights and sounds in a way that I don't normally do. I try to think if my lead character would have walked over these cobbled stones - pictured above, the last remaining cobbled street in Ryhope.  Would the cobbles have hurt her feet in her thin-soled boots? Could she even afford boots? Probably not.  

I also think about the shops she might have gone into.


This picture shows the remains of an old advertising sign painted on the back of what is now a grocery shop. It says, I think, R. W. Chapman, Stylish Millinery.  I wish I had a picture of the original shop, but even with the hundreds of images I've collected researching Ryhope history, I can't find this one. In a way, that's a good thing, because it means I have to start creating and fictionalising shops and shopkeepers and wondering what kind of stylish millinery the shop sold, and what kind of women shopped there. Oh, I can just imagine the type of secrets and gossip that were whispered in that shop!  It's that kind of thing that I love bringing to life.  

And as I walked the colliery bank, I came across this old wall. It's always been there and I must have walked past it a million and one times in my life. Well, hundreds of times anyway!  This stone wall is marked clearly on maps and old pictures from hundreds of years ago. There are lots of old bits of Ryhope still standing, if you only know where to look. And that's the beauty of going for a walk with my writer's head on, seeing things differently, through my heroine's eyes, trying to feel what she might have felt as she walked the same streets.


And now I've walked around Ryhope, spent a day at Beamish museum researching and the last three weeks researching at home. I've used books, online resources and bought old books from eBay (what joy!) to find out as much as I can about life in the early 1920s in the northeast pit villages. 

You might wonder why I research every book when they're all set in Ryhope at - more or less - the same time. Well, it's because each book is different, they're all stand-alone and can be read in any order. And each heroine is different, she has different challenges to overcome, different stories to tell and a different life to lead from any of the other heroines in my books. 

I like to focus on the main problems in her life that I'm going to chuck at her, research more about them and then build an imaginary life for her set firmly in Ryhope, as historically correct as I can possibly make it - while having fun at the same time.

Next week I'll be planning out my novel with all the highs and lows before I begin writing. This novel hasn't yet got a title but it's got a cracking storyline and brings back a couple of my favourite characters from past novels to make a reappearance. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I know I'm going to enjoy writing every single word.
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Glenda Young
Author of historical novels with Headline
Twitter: @Flaming_Nora
Facebook: GlendaYoungAuthor

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