The four, soon to be five, novels in the Dancing Priest series are set in the near future, at least far enough away from the actual present to avoid any notion that the characters are based on real people. But they’re essentially contemporary fiction, falling into the space between general fiction and Christian fiction.
Why would contemporary novels require extensive research? Lots of reasons.
You’re writing about a country or culture not your own. You’re writing about people who do things you’ve never experienced. You write about a painter when you’re not one. You’re writing about an institution you’ve never been part of. You’ve put your characters into a geography, even if ever so briefly, you’ve never visited.
Many people – historians and novelists alike – write about the American Civil War, or World Wars I and II, but were never part of it. Some write mysteries set a generation before they were born. Some write about peoples and cultures that aren’t their own (an often-dangerous thing to do these days).
When Dancing Priest first started in my head, I didn’t know a lot of things about what I was writing about. But other people did, and other people had written about them, published books about them, even created online courses about them. All these sources were readily available.
Here’s a partial list of the reading I did, the web sites I visited, and the courses I took to create the Dancing Priestseries. It does not include an untold number British novels, play scripts, and poetry collections, but they, too, were part of the research effort.
History and Biography
Crown, Orb & Sceptre: True Stories of English Coronations – David Hillam
King John – Marc Morris.
Queen Victoria’s Buckingham Palace – Amanda Foreman and Lucy Peter.
The King’s Speech – Mark Logan and Peter Conradi.
Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour.
A Brief History of the Bodleian Library – Mary Clapinson.
Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household – Adrian Tinniswood.
The History of England series: Foundation, Tudors, Rebellion, Revolution, and Dominion – Peter Ackroyd.
London: The Biography – Peter Ackroyd.
How the Scots Invented the Modern World – Arthur Herman.
London: The Illustrated History – Cathy Ross and John Clark.
Windsor Castle – John Martin Robinson.
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 – Andrew Roberts.
God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible – Adam Nicholson.
Tyndale – David Teems.
The Life and Prayers of St. Patrick.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields – Malcolm Johnson.
Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope – Justin Welby.
Reinventing the Idea of a Christian Society – R.R. Reno.
This is London – Ben Judah.
J.M.W. Turner – Michael Bockemuhl.
J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free – David Brown.
Whitechapel at War: Isaac Rosenberg and His Circle – Rachel Dickson.
Nothing But the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War I.
Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life – T.J. Clark and Anne Wagner.
Anselm Kiefer – Exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Various London, England, and Britain guidebooks by Rick Steeves, Eyewitness Travel, Knopf Map Guides, National Geographic Traveler, and American Express.
On Glasgow and Edinburgh – Robert Crawford.
London Walks, London Stories – David Tucker.
London – A View from the Streets – Anna Maude.
Anglotopia’s Dictionary of British English.
Night Walks – Charles Dickens.
A Guide to Dickens’ London – Daniel Tyler.
Walking Dickens’ London – Lee Jackson.
The Royal Line of Succession.
Imperial War Museum Guidebook
The British Library.
Christ Church, Oxford – A Brief History.
Discover Kensington Palace.
Westminster Cathedral Guidebook.
Canterbury Cathedral Guidebook.
Charles Dickens Museum.
Tate Modern and Tate Britain guidebooks.
A Guide to the National Gallery.
National Portrait Gallery Guidebook.
Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life – University of Nottingham.
England in the Time of Richard III – University of Leicester.
Robert Burns: Poems, Songs, and Legacy – University of Glasgow.
A History of Royal Fashion – University of Glasgow.
Introduction to the U.K. Parliament: People, Processes, and Public Participation – Houses of Parliament.
Wordsworth: Poetry, People, and Place – Lancaster University.
World War I Heroism: Through Art and Film – University of Leeds.
The Tudors – University of Roehamption / London.
Books and research specifically related to Dancing Prince, last in the series
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms – Claire Breay and Joanna Story.
Mercia – Annie Whitehead.
Ivory Vikings – Nancy Marie Brown.
The Lewis Chessmen – British Museum.
The Lewis Chessmen – Caldwell, Hall, & Wilkinson.
The World of the Vikings.
Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England – Eleanor Parker.
Online course: Hadrian’s Wall – Life on the Roman Frontier – Newcastle University.
Archaeology: From Dig to Lab and Beyond – University of Reading.
Top photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash. Used with permission.