I’ve always thought myself fortunate to study the Celts at university. I was lucky to study a subject that fascinated me in a wonderful city (Bangor) with enthusiastic tutors and Snowdonia’s beauty on my doorstep.
As a writer who often uses the Celts as a background I have an additional reason to thank my degree. Although I wouldn’t claim to have been an outstanding student, immersing myself in the Celtic way of life for three years has given me a ‘feel’ for their period. I’ve been able to incorporate this into my writing without having to resort to research, except to look up very specific facts and events.
This background knowledge has made writing historical fiction so much more straightforward.
The work I’m planning at the moment is different as it’s based around the First World War. I’ve read a little about the ‘Great War’, but planning the novel has made me realise how much research is needed to make sense of a period I’m not particularly knowledgeable about.
In my Celtic work I’m familiar with beliefs, medicine, weapons, transport and the like. I’ve always taken this aspect for granted. Now, I find myself having to refer to reference books and the internet at almost every phase of my planning.
I often hear about writers who say they find researching a period takes almost as long as writing the book. I’ve never really believed that – until now. The next work is likely to be a slow, laborious process as I immerse myself in the trenches of Flanders!
Is that a complaint? No. I’ve always enjoyed historical research, irrespective of the period or reason. I’ve never appreciated how much it can slow down the writing process, though.