Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Archaeology is my friend

So I mentioned my new archaeologist contact in passing, but I don't think I ever explained. Several critical scenes in TMT take place in Beauchief Abbey, a small, now-ruined Premonstratensian abbey near Sheffield. When I first started writing about it I took lots of notes and stuffed them into a file, but there wasn't much info available. I spoke with my Premonstratensian historian about the order and its rituals, and what the abbey MIGHT have looked like--and he gave me a model floor plan of a "standard" abbey (Shap Abbey). I kinda took off from there with imagination.

While reviewing the final draft, though, I checked my notes again and found a "possible contact" name I'd never followed up on, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield who was/is the lead of an archaeological project to excavate Beauchief. I figured I might as well contact him to check out some of my imagined details--it wouldn't hurt, right?

Wow. We made initial contact last week, but I emailed him yesterday with specific questions--and got back 17 emails with photos, captions, explanations, and maps. I am stunned with information, and absolutely thrilled. (The only niggling question is why didn't I do this before? But I easily wrestle those thoughts to the ground.)

There are many cool things about this, but here are two of the best:

1. He says the best model for the floor plan is Shap Abbey, which I was already using. Waa-haa! I have most everything pretty close; I only need to tweak a few things here and there.

2. I asked if he'd mind reading the chapters in question after I make my initial tweaks, just to make sure I didn't miss anything. His response? He'd not only be pleased to, but he said he'd take my chapters up to the abbey site and read them there, under the shadow of the tower, to "get in the proper mood." Oooooh. I love this.

Moral: Follow up on those possible connections. Particularly for historical fiction writers, those academic and real-life contacts can be invaluable. (and fun!)

Medieval Word of the Day: Lucina: In Roman mythology, the goddess who presided over childbirth, sometimes identified with Juno or with Diana; hence, a midwife.


Anonymous said...

Dear Susan:
Yay! A goldmine...
And let that be a lesson to all of us. When we're feeling little and unimportant and we don't want to bother people with out pesky questions we'll have to remember your archaeologist. People do love to talk about their interests, after all.
Cindy D

Vicki Pettersson said...

She shoots ... she scores!!

Susan Adrian said...


Exactly! He's thrilled to be involved--he gets to share what he's passionate about--and I'm lucky to have his help. Never be afraid to ask!

Susan Adrian said...


1 for the Medieval Bee-yatch! {g}