Welcome to another WIUTW! Yes, that’s two consecutive Wednesdays. Things are looking up.
This week I have mainly been editing my book of folktales about adventuring girls, which I’m pleased to report has now been sent to the publisher. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s finished – there will still be further edits, and reviewing illustrations, and proofreading to do – but the bulk of the writing itself is done.
It’s been a fascinating journey, researching not just the folktales themselves, but enough background culture and colour to retell each in an authentic and entertaining way. I’ve learned what Lent is like in Greece, why the Basotho people wear blankets, and how to joust if you’re smaller than your opponent. I’ve dipped into the volcanology of Java, the history of the Algonquin people and the Confucian ideal of filial piety.
The trouble with doing all that research is that barely any of the interesting facts and figures I discover actually make it into the text of the book. If you were looking for the results of my studies, you could spot them in the backdrop of the stories, but they’re not supposed to stand out. That’s why, at the end of writing this book, I’m a fount of completely useless knowledge, and the only place to deposit it all is in this blog.
For example, did you know that Ahasuerus and Xerxes are exactly the same name, transliterated from Persian into Latin and Greek? You didn’t, did you? And you didn’t particularly want to know that either, did you?
It’s far too easy to get distracted when you need to research and you have the internet, especially with the way that Wikipedia gives you helpful links to other articles. For example, writing a story set by the Nile, I wanted to have a kingfisher flitting into the water. ‘Are there kingfishers by the Nile?’ I wondered. I don’t know what a writer would have done about that before Google, but within a few moments I knew that there are kingfishers by the Nile, but unlike our kingfishers here, they are black and white. They’re called pied kingfishers. In fact there are 114 different species of kingfisher across the world, and did you know that the laughing kookaburra is a kind of kingfisher?
Ten minutes and a video of a laughing kookaburra later, I decided not to put a kingfisher in the story after all.
Now imagine doing that across fourteen different stories from all over the world, and you’ll have a grasp of the amazing array of fascinating factoids that are currently taking up all the space in my brain. Now would be the moment to claim me for a pub quiz team. On the other hand, if you have any allergies to trivia, you might want to stay away from me for the next few weeks until it all settles down…and I start researching the next book.