Going to London

I think I need to go to London. As you know, I’ve been very tired recently. I’m still catching up on all the work I got behind on because of the defense. So I’ve been reading, just a little, as I have time: The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman.

(Except mine has a better cover.) I like it a lot – I just finished it today on the T, headed to Brookline for an appointment. It’s not as rich as the Dark Materials series, not as complex or intellectual, but it’s more fun. And although I’ve never been to nineteenth-century London, it gives me an excellent idea of what it would be like.

That’s what I need to do with The Mad Scientist’s Daughter: I need not only to research nineteenth-century London, but to go to London, imagine what nineteenth-century London would have looked like. Get a sense for the geography. How long it would take to travel from place to place, walking or by horse-drawn cab. I want my book to have that sense of deep reality, which many historical books don’t seem to have. But Pullman’s certainly do.

So the question is, how to get to London? Earlier today, I tweeted about it, and a friend has already offered me a place to stay that I believe is within walking distance of the British Library. And now I need to think about the travel expenses. I may already be in Budapest this summer, so it would be a matter of getting from Budapest to London. The cheapest way would probably be to fly.

It’s exciting to think about this, because I’ve never been to London, and I haven’t been to Europe in – two years, I think. Which I suppose is not that long for most people, but I was born there, and it feels long to me. This is the sort of thing I could do, now that the dissertation is done. The sort of thing I could never do before, because I had to spend the summers writing. And once I’m in England, there are plenty of friends to visit.

Oh, I don’t know if it will actually work out, but I do know that I want to go, and that all it will take, now that I’m done with the dissertation, is some planning.

(There’s one place in The Ruby and the Smoke where I thought, you know, even if I’m writing for young adults, I can write about anything. It was at the beginning of Chapter 11, the second paragraph: “She woke just after dawn. The sky was clear and blue; all the horrors of opium and murder seemed to have vanished with the night, and she felt lighthearted and confident.” If Pullman can write about opium and murder, well then, I can write about anything, can’t I?)

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4 Responses to Going to London

  1. Amy Sundberg says:

    Yes, you can write about pretty much anything in YA. In fact, it’s often encouraged. 🙂

    Also, London is my very favorite city. I visit whenever I can. It has a lot of atmosphere, so hopefully it will inspire you! If you make it there, one of my favorite places to go is Leighton House.

  2. one of us says:

    Nice post, Theodora. London is my hometown, though I’ve lived in California for most of the past 22 years. Once you’re in Europe tyou can find very cheap flights indeed within the EU, so I’d leave it till you’re in Budapest if you can time the two right. It’s worth rereading some Sherlock Holmes, too, for the flavour of the times.

    Pretty much anything you want to know about distances, etc., feel free to ping me via FB message or at my email, if this system records it for you. I’d be more than happy to help. And sometimes the London of my childhood–the ’50s–feels closer to the 19th cerntury than teh 21st LOL.


  3. Alexa Duncan says:

    Oh, I love the Sally Lockhart books! I’m so glad you’re giving them some love. I thought Pullman made a misstep in the third one by trying to fold in some serious social commentary, rather than continuing his own take on the penny dreadful, but it’s still a fascinating series and a great tour of 19th century London. How exciting that you’ll actually get to go there.

  4. Thanks for the suggestion, Amy, and for the offer of information, Dario!

    Alexa, I’m hopeful — I have a place to stay, so it’s all about money now. I haven’t started the second Sally Lockhard book yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for the heads up about the third one. That’s actually the one thing I didn’t like about the Dark Materials series — it felt more and more like social commentary as the series progressed.

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