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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Sally Wright on Researching in Scotland

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ March 22, 2012

Donna: Sally Wright is back with us today to share more about the backgrounds of her wonderful Ben Reese Mysteries— all of which are now available in ebook format. Today Sally shares about a passion we share— Scotland— followed by an equally enchanting location— Oxford. Looking at these pictures can give you some idea why I'm such a big fan of the Ben Reese books— reading them is like taking a trip to some of my favorite places.

Sally: Typically, I start with some idea of a basic plot, or a situation I want to explore, or a couple of characters I’ve become obsessed with - and then I go where I think I want to place the book. It’s when I get there and begin exploring that the settings whisper and shout at me and tell me what to write.

In Scotland and England, where several of my books are placed, I’ve been helped immeasurably by Dr. David Munro, a long time family friend and geographer who was Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society for many years. He’s a renaissance man who’s vetted my books and answered endless questions with patience and aplomb.

In Pursuit And Persuasion (an Edgar Alan Poe Award Finalist in 2001), a tiny castle not far from Stonington on the east coast of Scotland (which was then a very eccentric B&B) became the major location of the book, because once I’d seen it, all sorts of plot ideas immediately leapt to mind. It also enabled me to use the ruins of Dunnottar Castle - one of my favorite places on earth, and just a few miles away - for the deadly denouement that couldn’t have been anything like it is if I hadn’t used Dunnottar.

 

                        (Only entrance to

                          Dunnottar Castle)

 

 

 

David Munro found that B&B for me, and the other country house too near Aberdeen that became another important location. There, a deliberately neglected walled garden owned by a volatile neighbor, and the grave of the real dog Vaida from Scot’s ill-fated voyage, took me by surprise and became part of the story. It was seeing them with my own eyes that told me how to use them and write a plot around them.

I managed to squeeze in Oxford too, where our daughter studied for a term. I opened the book in a tiny hotel I’ve always wished I’d stayed in, then used Magdalen College and Addison’s walk, and bookstores I’ve loved.

Still, Ohio and Malysia and Woodstock, New York, are dovetailed into the story, Scotland’s Isle of Lismore too, with its ferry ride across, and a lovely home on the River Tay up by Dunkeld where I amused a roomful of tea drinking guests who watched me being chased across the valley by a large herd of cows when that home was a hotel.

It’s the writer being there in person, negotiating serendipitous events, that gives a book a sense of reality. It makes the difference between a scene that lives, and one that lies in stillborn sentences stuck upon a page.

At least I believe that’s generally true, though the best may do better.

Sally Wright, a 2001 Edgar Finalist, has studied rare books, early explorers, painting restoration, WWII-tech teams, the Venona Code, and more, to write her university-archivist-ex-WWII-Scout books about Ben Reese, who's based on a real person. Like most authors, Sally's been obsessed with books all her life and considers Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers among the ones that've influenced her most.
 
Sally and her husband have two grown children, and live in northwestern Ohio. You can visit her website at  www.sallywright.net

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Reader Comments:

I love Scotland--had several lovely vacations there.
-SheilaDeeth, March 22, 2012

Dunnottar was the setting for the Mel Gibson "Hamlet." The day we visited Dunnottar they were taking down the set. As you say, Sally, it is truly breath-taking.
-Donna, March 22, 2012

Me, too, Sheila! Edinburgh is absolutely magical and i *love* the Highlands.Oh, and bagpipes!!
-Donna, March 22, 2012

I'm hoping to get back to Scotland this year sometime. I've had health issues that have been keeping me home, and if there's one place I want to go back to it's Scotland!
-swright, March 25, 2012

How exciting Sally! Will this be research for another book? Do you know yet where you'll go?
-Donna, March 26, 2012

If I get to go, I think it will be for pleasure, but when I'm there I suspect it will be to me and something to write about will appear.

sally
-swright, March 26, 2012

of course, Sally--travel to Scotland is pleasure, no matter what else. And it's equally true that very little that writers do doesn't wind up in a book somewhere. Take LOTS of pictures and share some of them with us.
-Donna, March 26, 2012

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