Everyone reading this blog is, I am sure, well aware of the importance of writers Doing Research to make sure they are Getting It Right. Well, there’s research and there’s research… Some “research” is really just a whole bunch of fun, having an excuse to read a raft of books about a topic one is interested in. Other research can become painstakingly dull (triple-quadruple checking that you’ve got a particular aircraft’s layout / take-off sequence just right), and occasionally one comes across research which you really want to put down and turn away from – mostly, for me, this happens when focusing on social attitudes. Casual racism, homophobia, misogyny… you name it, they didn’t even try to hide it in the past.

books-etc-ULS-research

A selection of the physical materials I acquired in research for Under Leaden Skies (the CD at the front contains pdfs copies of the official Pilot’s Notes for Sunderland Mk I & II)

But the research which really gets me is the first-hand accounts: not just books and TV footage but, particularly when writing in an era such as World War 2, the accounts one finds online. In particular, I’d like to point you in the direction of the BBC People’s War archive. I don’t recall hearing about the project until I came across the archive in early research for the story which became Under Leaden Skies, but the more time I spend there, the more useful I find it.

There are stories recorded of so many different experiences of the 1939-1945 conflict: not just Britain and her allies, but stories from all sides of the conflict. I find it can be a little difficult to navigate in terms of searching for information, but in a way that’s one of its strengths: you can’t just quickly dip in & out, you get drawn in to reading different people’s stories, and sometimes find a gem of information, or a throw-away comment which makes you dig deeper elsewhere. For example, when I needed to ‘flesh-out’ the time which Teddy and Cheeks spend in Gibraltar, I read through a whole host of stories from people who’d been on ‘The Rock’ at the time, and I found myself not just expanding what I had written, but completely revising it.

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ULS-200x300Under Leaden Skies was released on 1st August, published by Manifold Press

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