I am inspired by many things: songs I hear, and pictures I see and snatches of conversation in the street:
“What did you say to that?” One bloke on the bus said to the other.
“I said that it was far too big and he’d have to think again.”
But I’m also very inspired by buildings. I’m not a great building buff so I don’t automatically know the history of real-life places and my mind runs away with me when I see a beautiful building, and something always kicks in and starts to weave a gay romance around that place. Standish was based on the ruins of Witley Court near Birmingham for example but there are many buildings here in East Anglia that fire me up.
I’ll start with Horsey Windpump. My editors and my publisher asked me if this was correct at the time Mere Mortals was being worked on “Surely it’s a windmill,” they asked. But no, it’s a windpump.
The Norfolk Broads are non-tidal, and are prone to flooding so pumping the water away from such a flat area with so much water is essential–much of East Anglia is reclaimed from the sea. Back in the 19th century these monoliths of the landscape were very very common–right up until my childhood in fact. You couldn’t look to the horizon in Norfolk without seeing several windpumps. Sadly though, the process of pumping the water away from the land was mechanised, and the windpumps fell into disuse. Long before anyone thought of it being fun and trendy to live in them, they were allowed to decay, their bricks and timber taken to build other buildings and in a generation, Norfolk had lost many of them, never to be seen again.
Now of course we realise our folly. The remaining windpumps are listed buildings, some are homes, some are working museums and sadly, all too many are just falling further into decay. But it was the memory of the many pumps, standing like giants on every horizon on this flat land that caught my imagination, and when, a few years ago, I visited Horsey Mere and its windpump, in the middle of a hoar frost, I immediately envisioned a young man alighting a coach, and trudging towards the ferryboat on the Mere. Who was he, and why was he here? The story wouldn’t let me alone after that. Incidentally, the house in Mere Mortals–whilst not on the Torch Relay–was also inspirational, and is in Norfolk, near King’s Lynn. It’s Oxburgh Hall, a fantastic moated house. All I did was turn the moat into a lake and Bittern’s Reach was born.
That’s one story that I’ve told, the others are yet to be written but many in the filing system I laughingly call my brain are inspired by the buildings in my area.
Happisburgh lighthouse, for one (and that’s pronounced Haysburrough. Not Happysburg. Sadly. 😀
I was struck by the isolation that lighthouse keepers would have had, and although this particular lighthouse is based on the land, my mind painted pictures of a lighthouse on a rock somewhere out to see, like Wolf Rock, and what would happen if a pair of lovers were billeted there together, with one other. That’s yet to be written, although I have started it. I don’t suppose it will be a bundle of laughs.
Norwich Castle – an immense and ancient bastion that is not quite like any other building, although bears some resemblance to the White Keep in the Tower of London. Started in 1094 and finished in 1121 (they must have used the builders I had…) It was originally a fort, and then for centuries it was the county gaol. Since the 19th century it’s been a museum and art gallery. What amazes me is how new it looks. Also – they must have built it on the only hill for miles. LOL.
I can get bunnied any day of the week just looking at it, imagining all the intrigues and adventures the building has seen.
But that’s in the future…Today I need to tidy up the WIP I’ve just finished (set, if you are interested, in 1920’s Somerset (no idea why)) and bung it off to someone!
Thanks for visiting some of my inspirational buildings with me.
Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives and works in the beautiful Norfolk Broads. She likes cats and cheese but has found that only one of these is any good on toast. Find out about her books at her website www.erastes.com