A research dilemma: new archeological discoveries at Caerleon. (And an update).

I do love research. Collecting information and brainstorming plot elements that will fit what I’ve found is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing for me. And now that I’m back to The Pendragon Chronicles with A Wasted Land, I’ve been collecting new research gems and brushing up on old, creating a visual mosaic using Pinterest.

This last week, while I was googling visuals for the various settings of the novel, I stumbled across a fascinating link to new archeological discoveries in Caerleon, the Caer Leon of my novels. A complete building complex outside of the walls of the original Roman fortress, unknown of until just a few years ago, had been excavated and is being analyzed.

Archeologists are now debating whether Caerleon might have been much more important than previously presumed. While I absolutely love historical mysteries like this and the way they change the past we think we know, it presents me with a bit of a problem: when I was writing Yseult, no one knew about the existence of these “new” buildings, and so they are not a part of my descriptions of Caer Leon. I completed Yseult around 2004-2005, and these excavations did not take place until 2011. Theoretically, I could have read about these new developments while I was working on Shadow of Stone, since the geophysical surveys on which the excavations were based were conducted between 2006 and 2011. (I completed the first draft of Shadow of Stone in 2010.) But while I was writing the second book of The Pendragon Chronicles, I was under pressure to finish the book quickly, and I was relying heavily on previous research for the first book.

Now I am sorely tempted to go back and add a sentence of description here or there in the first two books, integrating the additional buildings into the setting. I realize that few readers will be aware that buildings are missing in my description, but, well, I want to get it right, you know? At the same time, I know there is no direct evidence that Caerleon was even occupied during the period I am writing about, Sub-Roman Britain and the Dark Ages. Except: the name Caerleon (Caer Leon) is derived from Welsh “fortress of the legion,” which seems a pretty clear indication that the location was regarded as a military site for some time. Also, it’s surprising how several of the streets of the present-day town are on a similar grid with the northern half of the former Roman garrison. Common sense would seem to indicate ongoing occupation, given those details, but of course, common sense is not scientific. I’m writing fiction, though, and it’s details like that which inspire me to create my own fantastic version of history.

Which I might now have to change …

* * *

Progress this week has continued to go well. Yesterday was a family day, so I only got a few hundred words of research and notes in, but today, I wrote about another 1500 words on A Wasted Land — despite more research and note-taking. The birds in the garden have no respect for my notes, however — at one point, I had to wipe a rather unseemly blotch off the papers. But better that than the keyboard of my netbook, I guess.

Anyway, A Wasted Land in now over 10,000 words, putting me at almost 7,000 words for the week. Still not breaking any records, but for me this is very good progress, especially without experiencing any kind of stress to speak of.

Next week, however, there will be a lot to do for the upcoming trip, so I’m not expecting the same kind of progress. Then Iceland and the Pacific Northwest, and this blog will temporarily become more of a travel blog. 🙂

10 thoughts on “A research dilemma: new archeological discoveries at Caerleon. (And an update).”

  1. If you think adding the descriptions would enrich the existing story, add it in, otherwise I’d not worry about it. The great thing about the modern publishing world is that we can adapt our texts to match new information like this. Awesome writing week, maybe not a record in your book, but still very nice, especially with all the research added to it. Wishing you good travel in the coming weeks, and the potential for quick writing and research times.

    1. Thanks, Gene! I’m still debating whether I want to mess with the descriptions in Yseult and Shadow of Stone. I might do it just to ease my conscience, but it’s not high on my list of priorities. 🙂

  2. I love research but dread not being able to keep up – best of luck with that one:) pretty good week i’d say- all the best for the coming week:)

  3. 7000 words is great, especially in the midst of research! Although having those buildings not have been mentioned in the first two books would bug me, too – as an author. I probably wouldn’t notice it as a reader!

  4. I totally get your dilemma about the history and “getting it right”. It’s half of why I have gone back to rewrite so much of Swan Song. And yes, if you change it, it’ll be more for you than the reader, especially at this point (though, having read the books in question, I’d happily read your additions for a richer image of Caer Leon).

    Even more fun though is reading a post like this. I spent a good portion of my time in England daydreaming while walking through the ruins of ancient Roman sites as well as old castles. Research for me is dangerous… dangerously fun and distracting. I’m in awe at your discipline.

  5. What to do? I’d perhaps add something like this post as an appendix at the back of the book for hardened fans/history buffs. Most people wouldn’t know or care, but I appreciate there are those who would love something like this as an extra. 🙂 X

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