Journey around Kent, Greater London and London – 13th August 2012

Now ‘Visions’ is written and the editing process is well underway, the time has come to fine tune those minor details which add a sense of realism. So what better way, than to embark on another mission of research ‘on location’, this time, to follow some of the journeys described in the book. It’s something I’ve been planning for a while, but as the 2012 London Olympics drew to a close on Sunday, I thought I’d seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.

I drove  to Orpington, Kent – the place in which my fictitious town, ‘Rosebrook’ is very loosely based. From there, I stepped onto a train which is where the real journey began. As the train surged forwards, there was little I could see, beyond the heavy screen of trees which enclosed both sides of the tracks. And I remembered a scene which involved the same journey, on a dark winter’s night – a desperate mercy dash to get to a hospital in Bromley.

Bromley is actually one of the first locations to appear in my second novel, ‘Visions’ and home to the gentle Bailey family. Described as ‘a pleasant suburban district of south east London’, it is a lot nicer than I imagined. I saw just the type of house the Baileys might have rented – followed by areas of green space, including the recreational park, where their children might have played. Once shown around the local history section of the library, by a very helpful gentleman, I had a little time left to look at the town, which boasts a pleasant market square, surrounded by modern shops. So I can picture it now, hold on to the memories and maybe even mention that it is also set quite high up, where the rolling hills and hazy woods can be viewed in the distance.

Traditional Houses in Bromley

In the part of the book I am currently editing, I’m still in Bromley. But thinking about the later chapters, there is one very exciting scene which takes place on the London Underground and being a psychological thriller, it involves a character who is being followed.

The first problem was getting there. I had hoped my train would take me to Waterloo where this scene begins – but I had to settle for Victoria instead. The sky was black and the air felt humid as the train chugged along at an infuriatingly slow pace. So with little time to spare, I set off on my trail, following the same route which I had planned in the story – using little other than a map of the underground. But it did not take long for me to realise, how wrong I’d got some of those details!

First problem – the Circle Line. Not ‘deep in bowels of the London underground’ as written but almost at ground level where daylight is exposed in some stations. So all that needs changing. In actual fact I’ve confused the levels of the Circle Line and the Northern Line – now that one does go deep – really deep! Down a long tunnel, followed by an escalator.

Transition from the Circle Line to the Northern line which descends deeper into the Underground.

Second problem is crossing platforms – in some stations, you can walk from one to the other and get the train in the opposite direction. I used this scenario – except you would have needed to ascend flight of steps, to cross over to the other side, in order to make this possible in my chosen station (Kensington High Street).

She could sense him now, like a hunter in pursuit of its prey – staggering along behind as she flitted across to the opposite platform. 

The tube station in High Street Kensington

Eventually I reached Waterloo, where this very scene was meant to start. But before embarking on my homeward journey to Orpington, I took several more pictures of the station inside and out. Waterloo Station was also a very significant location for one of the most powerful scenes in the first book, ‘Beginnings’ – and as I am planning to depict parts of that scene in a video trailer, I need some good photographs.

Beautiful facade of Waterloo Railway Station

It was a very worthwhile day and along with my photos, I also have 4 pages of hand written notes to consult, the next time I go back to my editing.

As an author, one cannot not underestimate the importance of doing your research. It’s hard work but fun and those images stay in your mind for a long time, thereby helping you to place yourself right inside the lives and minds of your characters.

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About Helen J. Christmas

I am a budding author and have written the first 3 books of my British series of novels, 'Same Face Different Place. Beginnings is a suspense thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. The second Book 'Visions' is a psychological thriller, set in Kent - a mystery which ensnares the owners of an historic, English Country House. Book 3 Pleasures contains suspense, thrills and YA romance and the 4th book is being written.
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