How do writers do their research? It's a question often asked, and of course there are countless answers. Experiencing real-life and observing our fellow human beings is as good a way as any, and plenty of writers (including me) keep a close eye on the newspapers for intriguing stories that may spark an idea.
But one of the most enjoyable ways to "do research" is to travel away from familiar surroundings. Often, I find that taking a break somewhere else helps me to generate new story ideas. Perhaps the secret lies, at least partly, in relaxing and allowing one's mind to wander down fresh avenues. And by exploring an unfamiliar setting, one may find material for stories that are that little bit different.
As a keen short story writer, I have garnered plenty of plot ideas from my travels over the years. A good example is "The Bookbinder's Apprentice", my most successful short story, which was inspired by a trip to Venice. And now I have just come back from a few days in Rome when, amongst other things, I developed a short story plot after visiting a piazza which features a rather mysterious "Alchemy gate".
I was accompanied on the short trip by my Webmaster, who has been updating my website in various ways recently. The weather was fantastic and we walked around the wonderful city for hour after hour. In the evenings, we had a few glasses of wine at some of the excellent restaurants, celebrating amongst other things that Red Herring Award, and another appointment which I shall mention in a blog post tomorrow…