Today we're back on the #UKMG Extravaganza Bog Tour and welcome to the blog MG author Allan Boroughsauthor of the bloodpumping Ironheart and Bloodstone, the kind of books that I devoured when I was 10 (and well still do!). When myself and Allan were talking about what we wanted to do for this post Allan was telling me a lot about his research and how he wanted to go to the places he was writing about, not just to get the information on it, which he could get from books or the internet, but to see how the place felt....how it smelt (amazing!) so we decided that we wanted to do something a little different and so I present to you...The Sensory Journey
The Sensory Journey
The need for adventure:
I write adventures – old school, fast paced, crammed with danger, precipices, guns, mad villains, big machines, androids, aliens, sea-monsters, lost cities and above all exotic locations.
I write stories that remind me of the classics I used to read as a child from the Lost World, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Tarzan and The Call of the Wild. Stories inspired by the great Victorian and Edwardian adventurers like Scott, Shackleton and the marvellously named Perceval Harrison Fawcett (try saying that three times in a row)
When I started to write adventure – I was determined I would start by having an adventure of my own – something bit, scary and just a little bit dangerous that would make me feel different when it was done.
I talk to schools about adventure and I always ask them if they can remember having to do something that made them really nervous – going to camp on their own for the first time, a zip line, a summer spent with children they didn’t know. Then I ask them if they did the thing they were scared of and unexpectedly had the most wonderful time. I tell them this is the essence of adventure – most of them get it straight away.
Apart from the joy of travel one of the principal reasons for my journeying has been to research my novels. For me, the key to a successful adventure story is to give the reader a sense of being ‘on the journey’ and to achieve that, first-hand experience is the most essential tool I have. For my first novel, IRONHEART, my research took me to Siberia, Mongolia and China; for the sequel I went to the Antarctic and for the third in the series I plan to go to Venezuela.
But for me there is more to research than simply collecting and regurgitating facts. After all I
can easily find out more facts about Siberia in an hour on Wikipedia than in a month spent travelling there. What first-hand research does give me however is a much deeper sense of place that is grounded in all the senses. No Google search can ever convey what it feels like to breathe the gin-clear air of the Antarctic, how a Siberian meat market smells or what fermented mare’s milk actually tastes like (yoghurt and cat pee in case you were wondering).
This is the true value of travel for a writer. No amount of desk research will ever fully convey what your eyes, ears, nose and tongue can tell you and this will do more to colour your work than any stack of dry facts.
So as a summary of my journeys in Siberia, Mongolia, China and Antarctica here are my top sensory memories
1. The unexpected sight of an entire village of native Siberians racing BMWs around a frozen lake. “How long can they do that for before the ice melts?” I asked my guide.“They do it until one of them falls through – then they stop” was the reply.
2. 6.00 am on my own on the deck of an icebreaker in the southern ocean; a great snorting blast as a humpback surfaces right beside me. He arches through the water, back as broad as a road, spine like a cable before raising his flukes and disappearing into the depths. I was the only person on deck at the time.
3. The noise of the glaciers. Groaning and creaking like ship’s timbers. Cracking and splitting with a noise like the gods in battle. The sounds of nature in the wilderness will dwarf everything you have ever heard.
4. The sound of the lady furnace stoker, shovelling coal in the rear coach of the Manchurian express.
5. Penguins in the southern ocean come ashore to breed for three months of the year, colonies of 10,000 or more. After they have spent a quarter of a year on the ice, the glacier is stained pink with guano and smells in a way that only half-digested mountain of fishy poop can smell. You can smell a penguin colony from several miles away.
6. The smell of the burner being stoked at 4am by my Mongolian tent attendant (strangely he always wore a bulletproof vest to do this). It may be minus thirtyoutside on the plain but the smoky-carbon smell and the soft crackle of flame is the definition of warmth.
7. A meal of fried scorpions, crispy and creamy, and deep fried ice-cream – the best tasting conundrum in the world.
8. Shaking hands with a Mongolian horse master, a man who had spent forty years raising thoroughbreds on the harsh plains. His hand was soft and warm, like a worn leather glove. I still carry his smile with me.Travel well.
IRONHEART is set in Siberia and was published in January 2014 by Macmillan
Bloodstone is set in Antarctica and was published in January 2015
Check out all the stops on the UKMG tour and grab your tickets whilst they're still available :P