History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

27 June 2007

Speaking of Abodes. . .

I need one! (And, btw, I thought Kalen's title was "Adobes" until I was halfway through the post, a sure sign that I live in the West.)

As we speak, I am at the beginning stages of writing my next historical. I know who the characters are, I know what their conflicts will be, and I know the shape of the landscape. But I don't know exactly where they are. My characters need a home!

Unlike most of my fellow Hoydens (All of my fellow Hoydens?), I've never been to Britain. I didn't go before I had children, and now I haveto wait until they are slightly more civilized before dragging them across the ocean. Did I mention I have two little boys? Yes, it could be awhile. So for now I have to do my best with books.

But where to start? I know my characters live in Northern England, somewhere near Yorkshire, if not in it, and they live on the coast. That seems like a fairly narrow recipe, so I figured the local library would do. I picked up a National Geographic book called Discovering Britain and Ireland. It's fat and full of color pictures, so I assumed it would help me narrow down the options, at the very least. Well, it hasn't helped much.

Though it covers the whole of Great Britain, each of the regions is described with lovely anecdotes. Meaning there's not a general overview of all the parts of a county, just entertaining info about a few interesting parts. Not very useful, but highly enjoyable! favorite so far is the start of "The North Country" chapter, by Frank Entwisle:

"When we were lads and wore long shorts and wiped our noses on our jersey sleeves, we lived in Sunderland, a bleak northeast borough of 180,000 souls [on the River Wear]. . . Six miles north was another river, the Tyne. The nearest Tyneside town was Shields. And between Sunderland and Shields, among the colliery winding towers and black pit villages, there was a swamp to which we went. . .

It was there we met the boys of Shields, who spoke with so different an accent that we pitched them in the ponds on the reasonable grounds that they must be Scotchies. I never discovered what strange race of urchins they thought we were (perhaps some breed of Southerner which--as both sides would have at once agreed--was a pretty contemptible thing to be). . .

The point of this joyful reminiscence is to show how two northern English populations, sharing the same industrial culture, the same everyday experiences--separated by but six grubby miles--could have different vowels and even a varying fund of words."

I find this fascinating and intimidating at the same time. I doubt even multiple trips to England could give me any sense at all of what I'm dealing with regionally. And regional differences in the nineteenth century, before phones and radios and televisions?! Well, I'll throw in the towel on that one. I can only hope that the vast majority of my readers are Americans who view the whole of England as equally exotic!

But back to my problem. . . Does anyone have a good starting point for me? I need cliffs, not moors. Or actually, the moors are fine, as long as there are cliffs as well. The kinds of cliffs that might be riddled with smugglers' caves or at least lots of crevices where treasure could be hidden. *wink* I need it to be within a day's ride of York, or two days at most, because they will be riding to a previous hero's home at some point. So where do they live?!?


Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Victoria, if I'm not mistaken Whitby is on the coast of North Yorkshire. It has a lovely Abby and cliffs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitby

9:01 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Also, the National Trust site has some great properties that you could use as a home. www.nationaltrust.org.uk

9:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Elizabeth, you rock!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

You know, I actually featured Whitby in my 2nd book (out in 2008) in a little cameo appearance. And I know they have cliffs because that's where the climactic scene took place! So that might be the perfect starting point for me, Elizabeth. Thank you!

Also, I forgot to include this little tidbit in my original post. "In his pantry Major Charlton keeps a spur in memory of wild days. When food was low the Charlton women served [the spur] on a platter. The signal meant 'Take horse, ride north--and bring us back some good Scotch beef.'" Ha!

9:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Victoria, you are sooooooooooo in luck!

East Yorkshire Coast - Geology and Geomorphology: The East Yorkshire coast is located on the east coast of England facing the North sea.
In the north the cliffs at Boultby rise to 203m, the highest in Britain though much altered by alum quarrying. Southward the cliffs continue with magnificent 'solid' sections. (see photo above.) From Speeton to Bridlington the chalk forms a magnificent line of cliffs, the highest chalk cliffs in Britain. The headland at Flamborough has magnificent scenery of stacks and sea caves. South of Bridlington the low glacial till cliffs of Holderness sweep smoothly to the mouth of the Humber, guarded by Spurn Point.
You could also look at the Bempton Cliffs.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Your recommendation has led me to some great sites dedicated to walks and hikes in Britain. The "Cleveland Way" leads up the coast of Yorkshire to Cleveland and this area is going to be perfect!

Don't know if I can post a picture here, but there are some great photos on this fossil-hunting site! http://www.tonmo.com/science/fossils/fossilhunting.php

9:40 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Thanks Kalen! Sea caves. . . PERFECT! Now I can narrow my search to books about that area when I go to the university library. Oh, the little children love it when I make them sit in stacks while I dig through books. Ha!

9:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, the little children love it when I make them sit in stacks while I dig through books. Ha!

Isn't that why libraries have children's reading rooms? LOL!

10:01 AM  
Blogger Susanna Fraser said...

Now that Victoria's question has been so ably answered, can I piggyback with one of my own? I need a narrow valley or pass, the kind of place a small force could effectively trap and ambush a larger one. I've been picturing it in the Lake District, since I've been there, but I'm open to anywhere from Lancashire/Yorkshire north to the Scottish border.

(I actually lived in England for a year, but that was 10 years ago, before I started writing seriously at all, much less knew what kind of settings I'd need for my 2007 WIP!)

1:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Man, Susan, that one's way harder . . . does this need to be place with a period road? Or is up in the wilds ok?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

This is a tough one. The Scottish borders would be an excellent spot since that's where the Scottish used to raid the British. There must be lots of passes, and crevices up there.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Susanna Fraser said...

Up in the wilds would work, though on or near a period road would be even better.

If I have to, I'll come up with a different setting for this confrontation than a narrow valley or pass, but I'm going to do everything I can to find one first.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Oo, oo, oo! I've got something. Stroud! Oh, shoot, it's too far south. Near Bath in the cotswolds. I'll try again.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Here's something! Keld in Northern Yorkshire! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keld%2C_North_Yorkshire

This is much more fun than doing my own research!

3:14 PM  
Blogger Susanna Fraser said...

Ooh, Victoria, that could work! Thanks!

3:35 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

God, now, I wish I wrote historicals! You guys rock with the information.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

And Victoria says she doesn't do reseach. LOL!

7:43 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Oh, I'm the queen of GOOGLE research!! *g*

8:16 AM  

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