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?)