I am in the strange and rather wonderful position of finishing the first draft of a new book, whilst waiting for the imminent publication in paperback of my latest: The Woman in the Picture.
The two books are entirely unrelated. It's almost impossible for me to hold both worlds in my head. When I think about them it's like the difference between visiting an old friend (The Woman in the Picture), and a new, rather edgy acquaintance. I'm excited to see what will happen to The Woman in the Picture but it's off my hands, launched on its own little fair ground ride. Whereas I'm still nurturing the new book along.
When I think back to the writing of TWIP (as I call it in my head), I remember so many adventures into research. A bit of a theme in both TWIP, and The Crimson Rooms, its prequel, is birth control - or the lack of it. Evelyn's beloved nephew Edmund was born out of wedlock and TWIP pursues this theme of illegitimacy. In researching Meredith, Edmund's mother, and her journey, I found myself delving every deeper into the life and views of Marie Stopes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/stopes_marie_carmichael.shtml
She was quite a woman, and some of her views, notably on eugenics, are singularly unattractive. But some of the letters she received from married women, and the amount of ignorance and misery they revealed, were desperately sad, hauntingly so. That was a century ago. The Catholic Church was of course a fierce opponent.
That's why writing about the past is so achingly relevant. Some themes are eternal: sexuality, motherhood, wedlock, relationships, who writes the rules... Eternal.