Guest blogger: Vanda Vadas
Revelling in research
Classic advice for authors is to ‘write what you know’. There’s more than one reason for this. Perhaps the most obvious is that familiar, first hand life experiences are readily conveyed to an author’s audience.
Now there’s a challenge for me! As an author of historical romance I have a duty of care to you, the reader, to deliver a memorable love story with characters who will remain in your heart long after you’ve read the last word.
So how do I step into the past and deliver to you the unfamiliar, in a familiar way? How do I suspend your reality, immerse you in 18th century England and the Caribbean, and ensure your time and attention is well invested in my novel, The Pirate Lord?
The following is my approach to an investigative process I thoroughly enjoy:
- Read and sift out relevant facts, figures and information from the internet, reference books, museums and libraries.
- Blend this knowledge with my own first-hand sensory experiences in having visited authentic historical and geographical backdrops integral to the book.
- Utilise the above elements as a conduit to create a fully believable world in which my fictitious characters live and work to resolve the dramas in their lives.
What are some of the real life inspirations behind this story of tragedy, murder, deceit, betrayal, revenge, and the inevitable blossoming of love?
The terrace and gardens of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England were the inspiration for my opening chapters in The Pirate Lord. Imagine if you will, a magnificent house and grounds with dramatic 16th century French architecture and grand rooms. My heroine, Lady Eloise Blakely, seeks a moment’s solitude and respite on the terrace away from the celebrations of her birthday ball. She peers over the balcony to ‘… the manicured gardens below. Flaming sconces illuminated the rose garden, giving it the appearance of a night-time floral wonderland’. Alas, her solitude is short lived with the approach of a masked intruder!
During a holiday visit to the northern Cornish coastline I stood on the edge of a granite cliff. I filled my lungs with the crisp, blustery wind. I could taste and smell the salty brine as I looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. My gaze swept the shoreline and waves crashing against jagged rocks. Seagulls, much larger than our Aussie breed, soared overhead. This experience, together with local history of the area helped to enrich many scenes between the pirate captain and his captive … ‘We stand at one of many isolated landing places well known to the smuggling brethren. My crew and I do not concern ourselves with the alcohol that lays weighted to the ocean beds. Nor do we disturb the contraband hidden deep inside these coastal caves.’
As any reader might expect, a book about pirates would most likely include scenes aboard a ship. Lucky for me I had an awesome encounter with history when Batavia, a replica of the Dutch East Indiaman, was brought to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. I was in research heaven the instant I stepped on board and caught a glimpse of what it was like for those above and below deck on a 17th century ship. I had fun with one particular scene in The Pirate Lord where the ship’s cook enlightens the heroine about daily victuals.
‘But,’ he continued, ‘if we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to rations, then you might just find one of these on your plate.’ He casually lifted the spoon from the broth, tapped it on the edge of the pot and pointed it at her feet.
Eloise looked down to see a large rat scurry beneath her skirts. She reacted in the manner of a madwoman, stomping on the floor and screaming as if Cook had taken the cleaver to her neck.
A cacophony of female shrieks and raucous male laughter filled the galley.
I had yet another opportunity to revel in research when my husband and I took a cruise around the Caribbean islands. I scribbled countless pages of notes and took copious photos and video footage of the flora and fauna, of old sugar mills and plantation houses, but nothing, nothing compares to actually being there and taking it all in, just as my heroine does …
Two large mountains jutted out from the ground at either end of the island. A valley stretched in between. Sand whiter than blanched almonds edged the shores. Her gaze swept the layers of colour, from the lush green vegetation and sun-bleached sands, to the vast blue-green of the ocean. She sniffed the warm air, a fragrant mixture of sweet florals, spice and earthy plant life.
On the island of Dominica, we walked through a lush green tropical rainforest to find a breathtaking hidden jewel with its beautiful waterfall, aptly named Emerald Pool. I knew then, that this location was perfect for a pivotal love scene in my book. When you read it, you won’t be disappointed. I assure you!
The Pirate Lord
Can love for his beautiful, aristocratic captive rescue Miles from his lust for revenge?
A family tragedy steeped in deceit and betrayal saw Lady Eloise Blakely vow never to fall victim to a man’s charms, let alone invite him into her bed. Until fate swept her aboard a pirate’s ship and into its captain’s embrace.
Yet when he reveals a dark secret, her lover becomes her enemy…
Ten years ago, Miles Zachary Fenton was framed for murder. For so long he has fought to clear his name and reclaim his dukedom. Now, when both appear to be just within reach, he is forced to abduct a meddling beauty, one who wreaks havoc with his emotions and complicates his plans.