One of the things that I enjoy most about writing fiction is the opportunity that it provides, when doing research to add depth and colour to characters and places, to learn a little (or a lot) about a wide range of subjects that I otherwise wouldn’t come across.
The first section of my first novel, for example, is set in Southwest Africa (now Namibia) in the 1970s, which meant that I learned about the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia and the Namibian War of Independence.
Then my recent short story A Quantum Leap was set in North Korea, so that required a lot of research to provide essential additional dimensions to the narrative. Even just being able to describe what the protagonists saw when they stood on the bank of the Taedong river required a combination of satellite imagery, tourist photos, YouTube videos and reports from Westerners who’ve been to the hermit kingdom.
I’m currently working on a novel in which I get to read up on The King In The Mountain folklore motif; the 1922 book that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published about the Cottingley Fairies; the Irish netherworld Tír na nÓg; and the metallurgical composition of steel.*
I love it. If I didn’t write then I certainly wouldn’t have read half of the rubbish that I have done.
*In case you’re wondering, the novel’s about football on Tyneside during the miners’ strike in the 1980s.**
**In case you’re wondering, I’m being sarcastic.