Today, at Falcata Times, we're honoured to be part of the Tim Powers Blog Tour. If you've missed the previous stop, please do look at Fantasy Blog Critic and tomorrow see's Tim appear on A Fantastical Librarian.
On todays post Tim talks about how research can lead to the strangest connections...
I generally get the ideas for my books by accident, while I'm reading something just for fun, and that's how it happened with Hide Me Among the Graves. I was reading a book about Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and I learned that after his wife killed herself he laid the notebook of all his poetry into her coffin, to be buried with her. This was a fine and much-admired romantic gesture – but a couple of years later a publisher told him, "You know, if you had a collection of poetry, we could publish it," and Rossetti said, in effect, "Uh, gimme a couple of days on that."
And he dug her up and retrieved the notebook. But my immediate thought was, Why did he really dig her up? Obviously the poetry was just an excuse - obviously he really needed to put something else in the coffin, or take something else out.
So I decided that this was no longer recreational reading, but research reading! And I proceeded to read everything I could find about Rossetti and his intriguing siblings, and their friends, and London of that time ... and I discovered that the siblings' uncle had been John Polidori, a character I had portrayed as a vampire in a previous book of mine. And then I found out that among the Rossettis' friends was Edward John Trelawny, who in his youth had also been a character in that previous book!
It seemed that I was doing a sequel.
Percy Shelley too been a character in that book, and when the Rossettis weren't able to have children that survived infancy, Trelawny gave one of them a piece of Shelley's charred skull, salvaged from the funeral pyre - and after that, the Rossettis were able to have healthy babies.
So with Shelley involved now too, at least by posthumous proxy, this new book pretty well had to be a sequel, at least to the extent of being set in the same world - and so far I hadn't had to make anything up! Actual history was giving me all this good stuff.
And something happened to Dante Gabriel's sister, Christina, when she was fourteen - before that, she was outgoing and athletic, but after fourteen she became nearly a recluse, devoutly religious but at the same time writing poetry full of ghosts and guilt - various theories have been advanced to explain what might really have happened, but to me it was clear that she had encountered the vampiric ghost of her uncle, Polidori. Trust me, it was obvious!
And so I just approached the whole thing as a cold-case detective would - a cold-case detective who's determined to find a supernatural solution. And I found enough clues in the lives of the Rossettis and their circle to figure out "what really happened" - i.e. the plot of my book.
And - as always happens when I plot a book this way - a few times, late at night, I thought, Wow, Powers, you're not making this up, you've discovered the real story! But then I go to bed, and in the morning I'm sane again.
Tim Powers’ most recent novel, Hide Me Among the Graves, is now out in paperback with Corvus at £7.99