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European Adventures and the Benefits of Research

Updated: Apr 3, 2023


My husband and I had already booked a Trafalgar tour of Spain, Morocco and Portugal, when I started writing my current manuscript The Tsarina’s Crown. Although the story occurs during World War I, it is not connected to my earlier works: The Prophecy Saga.

As The Tsarina’s Crown developed, the need for extensive research became apparent and my research-assistant/husband was on it. A few days into the research and development, he suggested that we should leave for Europe earlier than planned and spend a week in London researching further.

We realized then that, if we made this adjustment to our plans, we could also include one further option. During the 2019 Surrey International Writers Conference, I had bid on an entry in the annual silent auction: a week stay at La Maison des Chaumes in Villers-la-Faye, France, a lovely accommodation owned and operated by Franck Germaine and Laura Bradbury.


In the weeks leading up to our trip, my husband and I were both working full-tilt: him writing new software for a looming conference, and me busily scripting my latest novel. We were pumped and a little exhausted when we finally boarded British Airways’ double-decker airbus A380.

Once we were settled in our London hotel – the St. Pancras – we organized our week of research and set out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a copy of my first novel – The Crest – had stowed away in my luggage! We (my husband, The Crest and me) visited the Imperial War Museum, The British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum. We also took the train to Greenwich to tour the National Maritime Museum. We took lots of photos, some of which were photo-bombed by a certain novel.

By the time we boarded the Eurostar to Paris en route to Villers-la-Faye, we were more exhausted than we had been when we left Canada. A week in that charming village in the centre of wine country was just what we needed. For the first three nights, we slept for at least ten hours. Our days were charged with energy and curiosity. We explored the area by car or on foot and thoroughly enjoyed the history, our experiences and the opportunity to recharge. That recharge carried us through the next weeks of bus-touring.

Somewhere between Villers-la-Faye and Madrid, The Crest left us. I think it may be touring Barcelona. If you find it, enjoy it!


When we booked our Trafalgar tour, I gave no thought to research. It was intended as a tour that would realize a long-held desire. I was especially keen to visit Morocco. Without giving away my story line, I can disclose that I was happy to experience the landscape of Morocco as it may well serve as a substitute for terrain in my current manuscript. Plus, information that I gleaned from tour guides in Portugal may well find its way into a future story related to my current manuscript. I can hardly wait to get started. However, writing will have to wait a little longer.


I mentioned earlier that my husband is a keen researcher, especially when it comes to the story-lines that I chose. As it happens, the protagonist of The Tsarina’s Crown sets sail for Russia in July of 1915. He travels from Glasgow, Scotland to Arkhangelsk, Russia aboard the RMS Guardian, an armed merchant cruise ship of my own imagination. As soon as I shared this information with my research assistant, he expressed delight, saying that he had always wanted to take a cruise along a similar route. Trip booked! So, in the near future, we will have the opportunity to experience something similar to my protagonist.


As I reflect on travels past and future, I contemplate on the experiences and information that I’ve gained, especially the five senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing. I rarely have advanced notice of when I might use them, but something often finds its way into my writing, embellishing a scene with a sensory encounter or a bit of unusual information that helps my readers skip into that scene and experience it for themselves.

As a writer, I choose to experience life openly and absorb every memory, whether accurate or not. What I touch, taste, see, smell, hear or learn could end up in something I write, hopefully delivering a richer adventure.

Update March 2023: The research in this post paid off. The manuscript has now been published, sans the Africa experience, which my structural editor placed kindly on the cutting room floor. We did, however, travel twice to Russia. We also spent a month touring museums and military bases in England, and several days in Lisbon and Istanbul learning more about spies and other possibilities. While Tsarina’s Crown, Book 1 of The Nightingale and Sparrow Chronicles, is an adventure that involves England, the North Sea and Russia, other destinations will appear in the subsequent volumes. I hope you enjoy Tsarina’s Crown. If you enjoy the adventure, be sure to share your experience. Best to all!


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