Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


A week ago I was at one of the somewhat irregular meetings of our relatively newlyformed writers’ group (which has yet to gain an official name but is sort of soldiering on under the name of ‘the Tea Society’). Among the many discussions and random witterings, including some interesting ideas regarding World Book Night which I will share with you later, we got onto a discussion about location photographs. Later that week, during the launch of Oblivion Storm, R.A Smith opened a thread which was a ‘virtual tour of London’ using Google Earth, Streetview and Panaramio to showcase locations from the book.

The reconstructed gatehouse of Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields

The reconstructed gatehouse of Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields

So this got me to thinking. When writing Transitions I used a few locations which were familiar to me and as part of the research for the book I took a number of photos to get a better feel for the locations. I was also, at the time, thinking about the cover of the book and what a cover artist may want with regards to inspiration if not actual images they could use to mock up a decent composition.

cave1

One of the many caves aong Marsden beach

I had largely considered that to be that. The photos I had taken were between me and my cover artist and have since been left on my Flickr account not doing much. However, during the aforementioned discussion of my writers’s group, Ninfa Hayes mentioned that readers often like to see such things. Thinking about it, I agreed with her so I decided to share some of these location shots with you. There are three main locations discussed in Transitions – Arbeia Roman Fort and the surrounding area, the Roman City of Aqua Sulis ( which became modern day Bath) and the University of Birmingham and surrounding area.

So, this first post is all about Arbeia. This was a fort built by the Romans in 120 AD to

A shot of Marden beach showing the lift that led down into the pub (which was closed at the time).

A shot of Marden beach showing the lift that led down into the pub (which was closed at the time).

act as a resupply depot for Hadrian’s wall. Since the fort was in my hometown it seemed an obvious place to base Gaius Lucius, my Roman character. Of course, there were a number of slight historical issues I had to contend with. Gaius Lucius, for example, is not Arabic like many of the soldiers at Arbeia would have been. Though to be fair, I don’t actually mention his origin so he could well be Arabic. However, throughout the writing of the story I did imagine him as being from Gaul. Another issue is the fact that the fort was founded in 120 AD and I had originally considered the story being set much earlier, perhaps 10 – 30 year after the death of Jesus. Instead, the timing of the fort meant I had to shift my timings to post 120 AD and opted for 123 AD as being not too long after this point. I also flanged over the fact that it is likely the fort in this period was not going to be as well established as is implied in the story. I hope you consider these to be minor issues and also points which you were likely not to have noticed until I pointed them out to you just now… 🙂

A close up of one of the deeper caves

A close up of one of the deeper caves

Of course, Gaius is never seen at the fort. Instead, he is first seen travelling along a beach to find a cave in which a mad old man lives. That beach, in case anyone is interested, was what is now known as Marsden beach. I am not aware of there ever having been mad old wisemen living in caves on Marsden beach but I accept there is a chance there could have been. There have always been rumours of smugglers there in the past , using the caves to hide goods and there is a pub, the Marsden Grotto, which popular rumour has was a place where these smugglers would hang out. I am currently drawing on this in another story which I am in the middle of writing – a sequel to Gods of the Sea. The pub is also said to be haunted (one of the ghosts being that of a notorious smuggler, as it happens) and has been the subject of one of those over the top ‘Britains most haunted’ style shows.  With all of these features, it struck me as a wonderful inspiration for a location where a Roman could meet a mad old Briton for a bit of supernatural advice.

So, there you have it. How Arbeia Roman Fort and Marsden beach inspired the first part of Gaius Lucius’s story in Transitions. In a later entry I will talk about the city of Bath and the University of Birmingham and how they are linked to the story.

Advertisements