One of the elements of writing my Kydd tales that I particularly enjoy is the research, and it’s one of the things I’m most questioned about when I give talks or do author signings. There are many aspects of this – consulting primary and secondary sources, speaking to experts, undertaking location research, visiting museums and archives. I’m often asked about the length of time research for a book takes – that’s a difficult thing to quantify because in some ways I guess I have been doing it subconsciously all my life – during my years at sea absorbing the universals all mariners hold dear – and ingesting material from countless maritime books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve been drawn to from an early age.
Passport Stamps: Asia and Australia
Location research for my Kydd tales has included Asia and Australia. For quite some years I lived Down Under and then spent over a decade in the Far East, serving in the Royal Australian Navy there so I guess I know these areas well and while there took numerous photographs. Who knew, however, that these would be invaluable later when I took up a career as an author?
When we lived in Hong Kong Kathy and I often visited the then Portuguese colony of Macau and I called on my impressions of this city when I wrote about Kydd’s experiences there in Artemis.
After I’d begun the Kydd Series I was able to add to my store of photographs on various visits to Australia. Touching base with family in Tasmania, for example, I took in the Bass and Flinders Centre and was most impressed with the replica of the sloop Norfolk on display.
My book Command sees Kydd sail south from New South Wales to Van Diemen’s Land to look into reports that the French were interested in establishing a colony there. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to land on these shores in 1642. He named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, in honour of Anthony van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery. Van Diemen’s Land was not known to be an island until Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated it in Norfolk in 1798-99. The name of the island and colony was officially changed to Tasmania on 1 January 1856.
And I would be remiss not to mention my Australian researcher (and nephew!) Joseph Hextall who provided me with excellent follow-up material on the early days of Sydney Cove when I was back in Britain writing Command.