This week I enjoyed (after reading the book and writing a review of it!) listening to Irish author, Martina Devlin, talk about her latest book, The House Where It Happened, as well as the writing process itself. Part of the Cathedral Quarter’s Out to Lunch Festival in Belfast, the event was packed out, which only goes to show that we all still love a good story.
The tale of course, is based on reality and is a fictional account of the last witch trial in Northern Ireland, and Martina did quite a bit of research into the story, which she does for all of her books. She visited Islandmagee, where her haunted Knowehead House still stands, along with the Gobbins cliffs and the rocking standing stone, speaking to the locals and delving right into the history.
It’s the approach I used to think I’d take with my writing, and I do draw on my own experiences when I write, as we all do, but aside from internet-based research, I haven’t yet tackled something like this. You don’t have to be writing a historical, fact-based work to do extensive research – it may be that you want to really nail a particular setting – but at the minute, I’m definitely adopting the make it up approach!
With 10 stories already written for my collection, I’m still editing and writing fresh work along the way. None of them can be said to be complete as yet – they’re very much drafts at different stages – but getting out to events like this always helps to re-inspire you and gives you the chance to bump into other writers. I also chatted to Portstewart author, Bernie McGill, at the talk, who’s presently editing her next novel – a historical tale also based on real-life events – and who received much praise for her first book, The Butterfly Cabinet (by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes as well, no less!)
The good thing is, that with each event attended, with every book read, every short story scribbled and words crossed out and re-written, I’m adapting my style, hopefully improving it, and keeping going which is, in the end, the main thing. Competitions, meanwhile, are good incentives for deadlines, so those help, and if you were to actually win one of them then, gosh – even better!