Authors Out and About

I was MIA last month due to computer problems, but Jove has kindly let me use one of her July slots in order to catch up.

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Mini and Caravan — there must be lots of story ideas there

We authors carry out research and/or seek for inspiration in all kinds of places. Sunday the 9th of July found me, along with two writerly friends, in Didsbury near Manchester for the annual charity car show. Having last visited two years earlier, this was a great opportunity for us to catch up with each other’s news and come up with ideas for current and future stories. As another friend, JL Merrow, said recently, a character’s car can say a lot about their personality. But then Jamie did just dedicate a book to my Teddy Bear, so I may be a little biased.

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Yellow MGB GT and red MG Midget

Those of us who write fiction set in the (relatively) recent past, or whose characters are likely to drive cars from a bygone era, can learn a lot from seeing such vehicles in the flesh, as it were. Getting up close and personal with the exhibits is a great chance to figure out the dimensions in order to ensure that characters will fit inside, and to figure out just what they can, or need to, do while driving. It’s also handy to regard similar cars alongside each other and so gain an idea of e.g. the size difference between an MGB and an MG Midget: two cars from the same era, with similar shapes, but also quite different in a few respects.

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Model A Ford

More useful information and inspiration was to be found in the show programme, and as a bonus all proceeds went to Oxfam to fund local projects. From this booklet, we were reminded that the Nissan Figaro – the car I advised Jamie have a quirky character drive, and which also featured in the spin-off TV series for former Dr Who companion Sarah Jane Smith – was only produced for a year. Only around 20,000 were made, and yet they crop up everywhere. Of course some people have to go one step further, and use a Model A Ford as their daily drive: only marginally more practical than the Austin 7 driven by one of the catering staff at Wolfson College in Cambridge when I was briefly a post-grad student there.

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Ford Prefect

Having posed in front of a Ford Prefect (the car, not the character from Douglas AdamsHitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series) to show off our co-ordinating Mancunicon/Love Manchester Bee T-shirts from Stow Shirts, the three of us retired to the park’s café for some sustenance before heading out on our second research mission of the day: a trawl through the local charity shops. I gained one potentially useful tome: The Virago Book of Women Travellers along with a peacock feather fan that will go perfectly with the dress yet another friend is making for herself (inspired by a painting we saw in a restaurant).

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Very old, very smart Porsche

After a repeat visit to the car show for some more photo opportunities, the three of us retreated to the house of one of our number, for more nattering. So, people, where do you find your inspiration, and what unusual research trips do all of you make?

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