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Tag Archives: Finchcocks

At the Beau Monde conference in Reno (which, BTW, was well-organized, informative, and lots of fun!), I did a short workshop on getting the most out of your travel for research, which seems to fit in with what current discussions on favorite museums. A few of my tips (strictly basics, but things which I wish other people had told me before I went stomping off across England the first time!) are:
1) Do all the research you can on the sites you plan to visit before you even leave home–the Internet is God’s gift to travelers!
2) Try to visit sites at “off” times, and always make a note of what time of year you are there, what the weather and surroundings are like
3) Take advantage of a good guide or docent–smother them with questions! I found that the vast majority LOVE to talk in-depth about the site and want to answer questions (even the weird ones we writers always have)
4) Don’t be afraid to explore (except where there are No Admittance signs, natch!)
5) Wear comfy shoes and leave heavy bags behind (load up at the gift shop AFTER the tour)
6) Take a camera or small notebook (a little tape recorder, if you have it)
7) Always buy guidebooks! (And, if you’re me, tea towels and figurines and magnets and other useless things)
8) Organize your info as soon as you get back to the hotel, then it’s ready to be input when you get home–label photos
9) Write off all your expenses (my CPA’s eyes light up when he sees I’ve been on a trip)

Author Diane Perkins also has an article posted online about research and travel ( that I enjoyed.

And all of this talk about museums and sites has me longing to go back to England ASAP! I have never been to the Herschel Museum, but it is now definitely on my list, and I second the Geffrye Museum. Two places I like that are a bit off the beaten path (and, strangely, they both have to do with music) are Finchcocks Living Museum of Music and the Handel House Museum

Finchcocks is in Goudhurst, Kent, a Georgian manor built in 1725. It is now owned by pianist Richard Burnett and his wife, and is a museum containing over 100 historical instruments (mostly pianos, clavichords, harpsichords, etc), the oldest dating from the early 1600s. They also have an extensive collection on eighteenth century pleasure gardens, such as Ranelagh and Vauxhall. There is a great staff there, who will happily play demonstrations on the instruments. Great fun.

The Handel House is at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair in London. It was (you guessed it) the home of Handel for over 30 years, and they have many of his possessions and original manuscripts (including one for a portion of Messiah), as well as beautifully restored Georgian rooms. The museum has expanded into the house next door, as well, and this has an exhibit on Georgian life in London that is not to be missed. On an interesting sidenote, this home was also the residence of Jimi Hendrix for a time in the 1960s, and they have a small exhibit of some of his items, which makes a fun contrast to all the Georgianness. 🙂

Diane’s post on Mapping the Ton had me thinking about settings and how we use them in our stories, whether they are real places or our own creations.

I often like to do country settings, perhaps because I have so many happy memories of walking and riding through the English countryside. I sometimes choose counties I’ve visited. Sometimes I choose an area based on the mood of the story or what seems right for my characters.

I used a Sussex setting for LORD LANGDON’S KISS, as that’s where I lived during my UK assignment and thus knew best. For THE INCORRIGIBLE LADY CATHERINE, I wanted a setting that was wilder, to match my rather tempestuous heroine. I ended up using the northern Lake District, around Ullswater. I even had my characters stroll through the area that inspired Wordsworth’s famous poem about the daffodils and was delighted with how the art department depicted that scene (I am less delighted with the depiction of the hero, but enough of that!) I used the Cotswolds for THE REDWYCK CHARM; I felt the more rolling, pleasant landscape suited to the lighter story.

SAVING LORD VERWOOD had a darker thread, which I thought worked best in the far reaches of Cornwall (all sorts of cool ancient sites and great craggy cliffs to push people off). When inventing fictional stately homes, I like to use real houses from the same area as inspiration. Not that I incorporate every detail of the architecture or imitate exact floor plans, but I like to know some of the materials and building styles used. Though I adore Palladian mansions, for Verwood’s home I wanted something older. I found what I was seeking in Trerice House, pictured above. I think the art department captured the essence very nicely (the hero looks hot, too.) 🙂

For LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE I used Finchcocks as inspiration. It’s a lovely Georgian manor in Kent that also houses a museum of historical keyboard instruments (well worth a visit). Among the cover art suggestions, I also included a picture of an orchard in Kent, with a traditional oast house (used for drying hops) in the background.

So I don’t know how the cover ended up the way it did. Though I do like the overall layout and the color, the close up is reminding me of how very UN-Colin-Firth-like the hero looks. And that hair is giving me the shakes!

Moving on to my current work-in-progress. Part of the story will be set in Norfolk, so I have been looking around for inspiration from real stately homes there.

Holkham Hall (home of Coke of Norfolk of agricultural fame, pictured to the left) is gorgeous but not quite what I have in mind for this story. Felbrigg Hall (on the right) is a possibility.

However, Mannington Hall (pictured below, a medieval manor house now better known for its gardens) is very appealing. It even has a moat! I’ve already written a hero who owned a stone circle but never one with a moat. That could be interesting…

What sorts of settings do you enjoy? Do you have favorite counties, or favorite stately homes?

If you write, how do you come up with imaginary settings?

And do you enjoy seeing settings used in cover art? Personally, I tend to prefer them over clinches and headless male torso covers. Maybe like Elizabeth Bennet, I’m a pushover for “beautiful grounds.”


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