I’ve realised my curiosity is a big part of what makes me an author. I want to write and I want to imagine, but I also want to find out. In my ‘day job‘ we call it the ‘discovery stage’ and its one of my favourite activities – unearthing the intricacies that make an organisation tick and understanding them.
I’m in the ‘discovery phase’ of a new novel right now; exploring ideas imaginatively but letting them lead me into research, to find the intricacies that ‘furnish’, as Stephanie Johnson said last week, a character’s life. This interplay between imagination and curiosity often seems to give me the inspiration that propels the characters through the plot.
As an author at the start of 21st Century, I have tools available no other story-teller in history has enjoyed. I can visit a street in Leeds from my desk here in Aotearoa New Zealand in the flicker it takes my screen to load with pixels; I can look down on it from above, as if I were one of the city’s owls, taken flight from the town hall, or swivel on the street, looking around me. I can dive into the complexities of veterinary care for polar bears in zoos, harvesting kernels from academic papers and expert websites, or watch people’s smart phone videos as they experience a flood, like I did writing Ruby and the Blue Sky.
As I write, here in this remote part of an island 2000km from anywhere, the world at my fingertips, I’m full of respect for pre-internet authors and their patient library work and with gratitude for the internet which, at its best, can fire understanding, the empathy that follows and sometimes, for a short time, satiate my curiosity.