I've just been to Florida for the Historical Novel Conference. Apart from being able to attend wonderful sessions on all aspects of writing historical fiction, it was also a chance for me to go somewhere completely different and take in another landscape from the one which I look at every day.
Florida is flat, sunny and riddled with water - lakes, rivers and creeks. The roads are wide, level and straight and everyone cruises in big cars at fast speeds. The palm trees sway in breezes or sometimes hurricane style winds. Buildings are low and spread wide apart with no fences between the gardens. Crows and squirrels are skinny; they don't need much fat to keep them warm as the air there is hot and moist.
This is totally different from my English landscape. Where I live, the sky is smaller, framed by hills. Blue skies are a rarity and the roads are narrow, winding and banked by clusters of stone cottages. Today as I look out of my window a fine mist is drifting from the sky putting a damp veil over everything. The sky is almost colourless, a uniform white/grey as if it is illuminated like paper from behind.
One of the things I enjoyed about Florida was that it gave me (even if only for a few days) the chance to look at England through a stranger's eyes. And a stranger's eyes are what a novelist needs to bring freshness to the page. It is easy to forget that I have readers in other parts of the world who will read 'in the front garden' as something quite different from my intended version.
If you can't actually get away, then anything that gives you a new perspective will work just as well to invigorate your writing. Who could fail to look at life a little differently after viewing Salvador Dali's take on life? Hard things are suddenly mutable, furniture needs to be propped up by crutches, time bends and turns back on itself.
|Outide the wonderful Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg|
|Picture from www.circusnospin.blogspot.com|
|Howard's scale model|
|Ringling Museum - courtesy of Tripadvisor|
|Ford Edison Estate courtesy of Tripadvisor.com|
Whilst in Florida we travelled from beaches to cities, always with a museum or two in mind. Highlights for us were the Ringling Museum and the Ford Edison Country Estate.
Whilst visiting the Titusville Museum, run by a bunch of enthusiasts for their local history, I came across this lovely little second-hand bookshop and had a conversation with the owner about Deborah Harkness's new book. If you are near Titusville, do go check out the shop, The Book Rack, it has a great selection of Historical Fiction and Historical Romance.
Before signing off this post, I must mention fellow historical fiction bloggers who were on my panel at the conference; Circus drumroll please!
I had a fabulous time in Florida, came back refreshed and renewed and itching to get back to my writing.