Writing history: Is research boring?

   Never. But it’s true some research tasks are more fun than others. I love sitting in the library reading about long ago times. Especially if there are swords involved. Did you know samurai swordmakers once tested their blades on criminals from the jail?

I also love visual research – whether it’s documentaries, YouTube clips or watching episodes from the 1960’s TV series The Samurai.

 Not all research is done sitting in a comfortable chair. When I was writing Samurai Kids I went to swordfighting classes. The first thing I learned was I was not very skilled and couldn’t get a single move right. But I did learn important details that helped me write credible swordfighting action scenes. Now I take my wooden practice bokken on school visits to tell stories about swords.

When I was writing Polar Boy I wanted to feel cold, wet and frightened. I couldn’t visit the Arctic but you don’t need ice and polar bears. Not if you’ve got a good imagination. I sat in my front garden on a cold, wet night in my underwear. “Why not your swimmers?” lots of kids ask. I wanted to feel afraid too and if you are in your underwear, you are always listening, scared, terrified…. worried a neighbour might come outside and see you.

Research is fun, whether you are looking up facts or using your imagination to apply them.