I'm often asked to talk about research, as I am again in March as part of the Portsmouth Book Festival. I like to surprise people by demonstrating that we're more in touch with the past than we suppose. My mum was brought up by her grandparents, who were Victorians. It gives me insights and vocabulary that I use in the Bera books - not pretending to be old Norse but a slightly distant vernacular.
Sometimes you can literally touch the past. I was writing about William Blake a few years ago and asked to see this woodcut:
They brought me the actual block. I felt like I was the next person to touch it after Blake and could see the marks of his fine tools. Those of you who witnessed the Blood Wolf Moon this week will know why I was reminded of this.
This photo above is another treasure from this week. We moved a door and the whole frame had to be re-fixed. There were the people who owned the house before us, right there. 'Mummy' ran the Post Office (our present kitchen) in the 50s and it dates from 1935. The wood was tougher and straighter: no splinters. The paint was post-war grim. These small details from real people help me much more than reading histories of bygone royalty.