creativity / inspiration / inspiring / new books / writing

Ten Things I Didn’t Know…

(Actually these number far, far more than ten but I’m trying to keep it simple here…)

So, most of my writing time in 2016 to date has been spent writing first drafts. From January to April I wrote a MG book for Chicken House, provisionally called “The Sky Chasers” which is based around the story of the very first hot air balloon flight over Paris. Then, when I’d caught my breath, I started my next book for Faber, ” Letters From The Lighthouse” which, set in WW2, follows the adventures of a girl called Olive who’s evacuated to a strange village in Devon.

I find first drafts rather like pulling teeth, but one part of it I LOVE is the research. So, without further ado, here are Ten Things I learned whilst writing these two books…

The Sky Chasers 


  1. That the Montgolfier brothers didn’t actually know much about science when designing their hot air balloon prototype. Its success had quite a lot to do with luck.
  2. That Marie Antoinette had a model farm at Versailles where she kept immaculately groomed sheep and ducks etc as pets.
  3. That the majority of duels weren’t fought to the death. Sometimes it was considered bravery enough just to turn up and show willing!
  4.  It took 2000 buttons to hold the prototype balloon canopy together.
  5. When the balloon first flew, it came down in a field where farm workers attacked it with pitchforks.

Letters From The Lighthouse


  1. Many lighthouses were turned off during WW2, only operating periodically when ships were known to be passing.
  2. At the beginning of the war in 1939, most children were evacuated from London with their teachers/schools. Those who remained behind had little -if any- education.
  3. Animals from London’s zoos were evacuated before any of the children.
  4. Due to rationing, bananas were very rare, so people would use mashed parsnips + banana flavouring as a substitute.
  5. In the 1940s, many rural homes still didn’t have mains electricity.Radios were charged by batteries, light and heat came from oil/coal, and chamber pots were still used, especially at night!

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