I’ve just returned from Jerez, where it was thirty-two degrees and sunny – still Summer really – to a decidedly Autumnal London.
I didn’t get to go up to the mountains as I’d hoped, it was still just too hot, that will wait for cooler times. I was, however, able to do some other research, mainly into specific places within the old town of Jerez and into timings – which will help with my writing of the sequel to ‘Reconquista‘.
The events of the book take place over about a fortnight, but a lot happens in that time. Just like the first book, the tale is told from the points of view of a number of characters so I need to be specific about where each of them are and when (sometimes they miss each other, or avoid each other, by seconds). So I was striding around the narrow streets within the old town to work out approximately how long it would take to get from one point to another. The street pattern may, in places, have changed since the 13th century, but the distances remain the same.
Anyone observing me would have wondered just what this middle-aged English woman was up to, consulting her watch and making notes before starting off again. Something nefarious perhaps, like planning a quick getaway after a robbery. Maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t attract the attention of the local Guardia Civil.
As usual I spent some time at the Alcazar, which is a lovely place to sit and write, although this time I did so outside in its orange grove or Patio de los Naranjas, overlooking the Cathedral of San Salvador.
I drove out of town with a friend, which enabled me to look back towards the city and see what my characters would see as they approached it. The topography is undulating and the old city was at a high point, but the gradient isn’t uniform, so parts of the walls are on a relatively flat surface, whereas elsewhere the land falls away sharply, especially from the Alcazar and nearby.
Anyone journeying from the coast to the west would see the towers of the Alcazar first, high up on its hill, whereas anyone approaching from the east would see the city walls rising out of a plain. Whether or not these vistas will feature in the final book I don’t know, but it was important to me that I knew about them.
The book is taking shape, though I’m only just half way through the first version. Like its predecessor it will have three sections. I’m sticking with the classic ‘story of a journey‘ structure – characters set out, they journey, they come home.
Part One is ‘In the City‘ and Part Three ‘Returning‘, but I have not decided on the title for Part Two, though I’m using ‘In the Mountains‘ for now. In this volume there will also be an Epilogue, showing what happens to the characters in the future. This should ensure that I won’t be tempted to write any more about them – the next book in the series will be set approximately two hundred and thirty years after the second.
Now, however, I must properly type up all those sections which I scribbled down on bits of paper when I was away – I didn’t, on this occasion, take my lap-top, something I’m beginning to regret.