Incidentally, I thoroughly recommend entering their competitions and reading (and, of course, buying) their varied poetry and prose. Anyway, the prize gave me the opportunity to write and publish a novella which eventually became Chasing Angels, a fictionalised account of Henriette d'Angeville's historic first female ascent of Mont Blanc. About ten years ago, I spent a week away in Chamonix - in the summer, mind you - exploring its history and its atmosphere. Sadly, both books are now out of print.
It also inspired a completely different short story set at the beginning of the First World War. It's now awaiting a polish so I can enter it into a short story competition.
However, you cannot understand the depths of any place unless you have lived there for some time and become part of its fabric, even in a small way. I lived in Harrogate for over thirty years and got to know it warts and all: its past, present and future. And it was that absorption that inspired my first full length novel Hope against Hope.
Five years ago, Jon and I moved to Rosedale Abbey that lies in the heart of the dale that bears the name which, in turn is slap-bang in the middle of the North York Moors National Park. Less, well known than its brothers such as Dartmoor and even its closest neighbour, The Yorkshire Dales, it has even more (IMO) to recommend it. For example, the largest expanse of heather moorland outside Scotland, a stunning coastline, plenty of fascinating history and of course, tranquillity and stunning landscapes. So how could I not write about it?
Everywhere we tread leaves traces of its past. I have been thinking about where to drop the literary pin in Rosedale's rich and varied history and have finally chosen three distinct historical periods in which to set a loose series of novels.
1. Rosedale Priory that existed from the 10th century until the Dissolution. I plumped for the early 14th century but before the arrival of the Black Death.(THat might be a sequel - I have a germ of an idea for that too.)
2. Illegal Huguenot glass-blowing in the late 16th century.
3. The mining of iron ore in the dale in the latter part of the 19th century when the population of the dale (548 in 1871) increased in a very short time to over 2800 inhabitants. And that was because iron-ore mining began. With it came all the trappings of heavy industry: railways: smoke, pits, smelting works, chimneys and house-building. (This was when most of the stone structure of the priory was plundered stone by stone to build the cottages, some of which are still lived in today.) But it wasn't to last. The last mine closed in the early 20th century and the dale slipped back into farming. Today, tourism is the main employer but it never gets crowded. Even on the hottest summer day, it doesn't take long to escape and be alone with your silence and the birds.
And this is why I am now working on the first draft of my novel (working title My Lady of Rosedale) about the life of the priory in the early fourteenth century.
In my next post I'll get back to writing and how I set about creating an historical novel - with special reference to My Lady of Rosedale. I am now 30,000 words or so into my first draft. Remember though, that I hate word-counts. But sometimes they're helpful. It means I'm about a third of the way through. I am hoping if I continue to blog about it on a regular basis, it will stop me slacking.