Have you ever heard ot the Watermill Theatre near Newbury in Berkshire? I never had until recently, though I gather it is quite famous, It really is a watermill and it really is a theatre. And a more gorgeous place you could hardly imagine. Glorious gardens with the river running through them, lovely old redbrick buildings, a rather posh restaurant and of course the little theatre itself, beautifully converted from the inside of the old mill.
And how do I know all this? Because yesterday my friend Eleanor drove me out there, we had lunch, and went to see Tracy Chevalier talking about her latest novel, Remarkable Creatures, which I wrote about a few days ago.
Tracy is a great speaker. I was glad I had read the book, but anyone who hadn't would have rushed to buy it immediately, and indeed clearly they did as the bookstall was doing a roaring trade afterwards. But it was fascinating to hear about how the idea for the novel came to her, quite unexpectedly, on a rainy day with her small son at the museum in Lyme Regis. Interesting, too, to learn that her ideas always come like that, completely out of the blue -- if she looks for an idea she never finds one. She spoke so interestingly, too, about her research methods -- a writer who always bases her novels on historical fact, she spends a long time on research before she even starts writing, though as the research progresses, ideas pop up, so that the fiction is taking shape, as she described it, somewhere in the back of her head and is ready to be written once the facts are in place.You can probably tell from what I'm saying here that I'm fascinated by the creative process (and deeply envious of people in whom it manifests).
If you want to know more about Tracy and her novels you can go to her website, which is delightfully informal and informative. As you can tell, I am a complete fan now and will be reading more of her books as soon as I can get my hands on them.