Diary of a non-fiction book: Initial research
As soon as I received the email go-ahead from the publisher I started to make tentative enquiries into who could help me with the research for The Life of Richard Cadbury.
I started in Birmingham, with a charitable trust I’d been told might have some pictures of him while I was researching A History of Cadbury.
It took a few goes to locate the correct person, but she duly called me back and we had a long discussion about what I was looking for and what they might have that I could use.
Then we confirmed everything by email. Everything.
I didn’t want to put too much work into it yet, as the contract hadn’t been returned. Aside from doing unnecessary work, I also didn’t want to disappoint anyone else if the project fell through.
A few days later I received an email from my contact saying that she had identified a family member who might like to help. That family member turned out to be Richard Cadbury’s great-granddaughter (I gave her too many greats before).
We exchanged an email or two, and then I went off on holiday for three weeks. It was while we were away that the contract came back. But then I was really, really busy catching up with some editing projects with my Greek client. And the weeks simply vanished.
Before I knew it, it was almost the end of July, and I hadn’t done any further work.
Woodbrooke College, Birmingham
With another week off on the horizon, and an extension arranged for submission of the book, I pulled out the stops and started to make arrangements.
The first thing I did was arrange an actual phone conversation with my “research assistant”. Then we met up in Birmingham. She bought me lunch and I paid to register with the library where we met so that I could take some books home with me.
My research assistant had done a lot of digging and was delighted with what she found out. An immense family tome thought to be lost was located – it was in London – she had a pile of privately published books with her as well as some photographs. Plus, she was able to contact family members she hadn’t seen or heard from in a long time – and even some she didn’t even know about.
After lunch, we went to the library and I chose two oversized volumes to bring home with me. I can only borrow these for 4 weeks, so the poet and I will drop them back at the end of next week. Fortunately, it’s also a residential property so someone will be there to take them from me.
Friends House, London
Having located the family book, the poet and I arranged to visit Friends House in London to view it. We had already booked the week off work, so it was a nice little day trip for us. He took lots of photographs and we dealt with all of the necessary permissions.
Meanwhile, my research assistant has located MORE material, but this time it’s in Bristol. That might be a bit far for us to go, or we may run out of time. But it’s another research trip to consider, perhaps at a weekend.
I still have books on my shelf that I bought for research the last time. I can use those too, as well as my own book. It’s a lot of reading, and there will be a lot of note-making.
I have one book published in 1906, another published in 1926, another published in 1931, and a few published in the 1990s. Plus, I have these oversized reference books, which will be first on the list as they have to go back soon.
I’ll read a bit, then I’ll jot down some notes. I try not to paraphrase, but I do write down facts and statistics, such as dates. As I already feel that I know quite a lot about Richard Cadbury, I can also do some actual writing as I go along.
If I read and read and read, without making any notes, I may forget something important or something I really want to include. And it takes a while to go back and locate something that I might remember that I don’t want to get wrong.
The next diary post will cover setting up my Scrivener binder.