Friday, March 13, 2015

"And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by."

(Quote from Rudyard Kipling's "Smuggler's Song") 
"Slowly, slowly, very slowly went the garden snail.Slowly, slowly, very slowly up the wooden rail."
Nursery rhymes seem good at describing my writing pace in the last couple of weeks. I have not written too much new stuff since I was busy editing The Fox Went Out. Now that I've applied the edits, I am slowly, slowly, very slowly easing myself back into the world of Scotch'd the Snakes. At this point, the main thrust of that work is research. I am dealing with two new areas of England in this mystery (alongside my fictional town of Whistlecreig) and want to really get a good picture of what they look like. One of the places is Saltburn-by-the-Sea: a place I stumbled upon by happenstance over Instagram and was instantly charmed by. I spent yesterday morning thumbing through the official website, delighted by each new thing that turned up. Its history has been an eclectic one, and besides lending itself perfectly to a 1930's seaside resort location, there is much material I can work with to lend an air of authenticity to the setting as I write. Perhaps one of the most interesting mechanical pieces of the town has been the funicular Cliff Lift.

The Cliff Lift

I couldn't get enough of reading about it and watching the video included on the site. The entire thing works by counterbalancing the cars with water so when one is going down, the other is going up, and I think it was a purely brilliant invention considering the steepness of the cliff which, I assume, people had to scramble down pre-lift days. I adore things that have been left pretty much alone since the era in which I want to inspect them. Makes my work so much easier, and as the Cliff Lift has been virtually unchanged since its construction well before the timing of Scotch'd the Snakes, I have loads of accurate material with which to work.

Another fascinating bit of Saltburn-ness is its famous (infamous?) history of smuggling. Bwahahaha. I can have fun with this one, can't I? If you want to hear an absolutely thrilling Rudyard Kipling poem ("Smuggler's Song") read by someone with an absolutely chilling voice, go thataway. I found it most inspiring.

The Ship Inn

For instance, John Andrew, most infamous Saltburn smuggler, also ran the Ship Inn, Saltburn's booming tavern, and on occasion "helped" the customs men chase down his smuggler friends. I'm seeing a bit of an ignoble Sir Percy Blakeney thing going on. I'm not certain what I'll settle on as far as using its smuggling past in my own book, but knowing the lore of a place helps wonderfully with drawing its portrait well. I'm so happy that my somewhat randomly-selected beach town ended up having such a rich and varied history, setting, and quality. I'm looking forward to working with Saltburn and using its character to color my own cast.


Suzannah said...

Oh! I LOVE that Rudyard Kipling poem! And what a splendid setting for a book. I keep imagining buried smuggler's treasure and someone getting tragically shoved off the cliff at midnight, but you're probably right on that ;).

Janie said...

I do not write historical fiction, so I have to do (slightly) less research for my stories. But I always love researching. It's such fun to find out new things about interesting places and then breathe a little life into the solid facts through the characters and dialogues of a story.

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous little town. I can't wait to read about it and really picture it in Scotch'd the Snakes, Rache!
As an aside/shameless plug--we have an incline that is extremely similar to the cliff lift in downtown Pittsburgh! It takes you up to Mt Washington to survey the city skyline and the point where 3 rivers meet. *cough* Come visit soon *cough* after Romania *cough*

Rachel Heffington said...

Meghan: SOMEDAY.