From the amount of shrieking being aimed in my general direction, I know that quite a few people have read Tumbledown by now. I wondered whether folk might be interested in some of the background research to the novel, so I put this handy pictorial guide together.
Also, if anyone wants to ask any questions about the book or leave feedback (good or bad) – pop your comments onto the end of this thread, and I will happily get back to you.
Bit of a warning: this post contains non-specific spoilers for the book, and gratuitous images of food porn.
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I think my head just about exploded trying to make sense of this flow chart…
Tumbledown was a fabulous novel to write, but a bugger to try to get right. It took me about 12 months to finish it, and by the end of that year I had amassed a bizarre and eclectic Internet favourites folder that explained everything from What is Bail: Maine, to Preserving Impression Evidence on HowStuff Works (great site!), to what it’s like to spend time in a County Jail. (Orange is the New Black wasn’t even a twinkle in Netflix’s eye when I wrote this book!)
I learned the hard way not to write technical scenes whilst on a beach holiday with no Internet connection, because when you get home and check your facts out, it necessitates reworking the entire damn chapter. I also learned that the American justice system is nothing I ever want to become entangled in, that if I ever get a tattoo it certainly won’t be one of these, and that the state of Maine is somewhere that I would very much like to visit.
I’ve never been to Maine, and, although Avery and its sister towns are fictional, I relied on photographs such as this one to try to get descriptions of the landscape right.
And images like the one below gave me scenery tips for Caleb’s later road trip down the Eastern US coastline.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than researching regional food specialities. The unfortunate side effect of that is permanent hunger (and food envy!) whilst I’m trying to concentrate on the damn story.
Lobster roll, anyone?
While we’re on the subject of food, anyone who might be wondering what the hell Sarah’s talking about when she mentions making a “jam roly-poly” for the pot luck picnic – it’s a diet-busting pudding of sweetened suet pastry, wrapped around a load of jam, and then oven baked. Like most British puds, it’s best served warm with custard.
Recipe available here :-)
The city of Holyoke (pronounced whole-yolk, fact fans!) was chosen after a hop through Google searching for derelict warehouse districts in Massachusetts. The area around its three main canals is apparently undergoing regeneration, but images of foreboding, abandoned buildings made it perfect for my purposes. Even more perfect was the fire department’s tactic of marking unsafe buildings with an X, which gave me an ideal way of allowing the police in the novel to zero in on the right location.
This is the copy of Pride and Prejudice that Alex buys Sarah for her birthday. It would have set her back $260, which seems a small price to pay, all things considered…
And last but not least: the Dark Peak, Derbyshire, in all its glory, complete with “feisty” sheep. I like to think of Alex and Sarah sitting under their blanket together, drinking a brew, and looking out on this view :-)