With the exception of Mars, I’ve based the Time Travel Diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester in areas where I have lived and know reasonably well in the North East of England and West Sussex.
This, I think makes it easier to write description of a place naturally. I have heard of authors who have constructed detailed maps of places they have never visited, possibly assisted by Google StreetView, in the hope of giving the impression that they know the place intimately.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for me. I end up giving descriptions from the point of view of a tourist rather than a local. Though I admit I had to use maps of Mars for the story line there. But that was only for the reason outlined above.
With regard to real people in my novel, most of whom are long dead, I put my hand up to almost completely fabricating the characteristics I attached to them.
So here are some of the people and places I have use in my novels.
Chanctonbury Rings, West Sussex.
A mysterious place on the edge of the Sussex South Downs associated with many fairy legends. Its ancient beech trees were destroyed in the great storm of 1987. Within the circle is the remains of what are thought to be a small Roman temple.
Church of St. Mary Magdalene and Denis, Midhurst
The parish Church between the Inn and the Castle. The tunnel between the Inn and the cavern could be accessed from its crypt.
Served as mistress of Girton from 1873 to 1875. Before founding Girton she was the editor of the English Woman’s Journal and helped organize the first petition to parliament for women’s suffrage. As a member of the London School Board and the Schools Inquiry Committee she worked to secure admission for women to official secondary school examinations. She was Elizabeth’s tutor at Girton.
William Rutter Dawes (1799-1868)
Born in West Sussex. He had an 8 inch reflector telescope from which he made drawings of Mars which were used by R. A. Proctor, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, to make a map of Mars. In A Drift Out of Time, he was a friend of Elizabeth’s father and bequeathed to him a globe of Mars.
The first residential college for women established in England. Founded by Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon, and Lady Henrietta Stanley in 1869. When Girton opened, the university refused to let women formally sit for Tripos examinations (undergraduate course assessments), as it considered the tests too difficult for women. Emily Davies fiercely opposed this idea and insisted that the college’s students be allowed into the exams. In 1873 three of Girton’s first students, Rachel Cook, Louisa Lumsden, and Sarah Woodhead, sat for the Tripos in Classics and Mathematics, and they are collectively known as ‘the Pioneers.’
I wanted to show that Elizabeth was up with James on mathematical knowledge, so I invented she had been at college there. I possibly over did it though when I got her to make James explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in one evening.
Ham Green, West Sussex.
Elizabeth’s home is in Hamgreen. It’s not far away. The best way to find it is from Chichester. Turn right at Cocking and follow the old green path close to Downs. After a while you will come to a small combe and if you are in luck you will see the old Lodge nestling in the woods. There is usually a Martian sitting on one of the gate posts but don’t look to closely for it will disappear.
In A House Out of Time, a comet fractures time putting the distant past out of reach. James and Elizabeth have the task of going back to try and deflect the comet. They found a Martian spaceship quite useful for this task.
A Norman castle situated in the market town of Helmsley, within the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England. It is mainly a ruin and walking distance from Helmsley. One side of the keep has collapsed. In my first book, Out of Time this was done by the Martians trying to escape by a spaceship which had been incorporated in the keep.
Harrow Hill Camp, West Sussex.
According to Heather Robbins’ map of the fairy folk legends of England produced by Chichester University’s Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy Department, this was the last place in England where the fairies lived. Actually it has a late Bronze Age fort on top and is surrounded by Neolithic flint mines. In A Drift Out of Time it used by the Martians as a base.
The town is home to the Norman St. Ann’s Castle, which dates from the about 1120, and not to be confused with the imposing ruins of the old Cowdray house which stands near Midhurst. The Castle foundations are all that can now be seen and are hidden in shrubbery and trees out of site of the average tourist. They can be found just behind the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene and St. Denis.
For my stories I invented a cavern underneath accessible by a tunnel from the Inn and church where the servers and time controllers were housed.
Loch Ness Monster
Sighting by D. Mackenzie (c. 1871–72)
On October 1871 or 1872, by a Dr D. Mackenzie of Balnain. He described seeing an object that looked much like a log or upturned boat “wriggling and churning up the water”. The object moved slowly at first, then disappeared off at a faster speed. Mackenzie sent his story in a letter to Rupert Gould in 1934, shortly after popular interest in the monster skyrocketed.
It was this story and the link between James and Urquhart Castle which gave me the idea to use the Loch Ness Monster as Marco’s time machine in my first book Out of Time.
James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE (1831 –1879)
A Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics”.
In my book, Out of Time, he is instrumental in starting time travel
Maxwell was pivotal in providing the basis for Einstein’s theories of Relativity. Without Maxwell’s equations the world would be a very different place and most importantly there would be no Star Trek!
T. W. Rolleston (1857–1920)
Founder member of the Irish Literary Society and wrote a book on Celtic Legends describing the coming of the Fairy Folk. In my novels he is the person who discovers the diaries of James Urquhart and Elizabeth Bicester.
Spread Eagle Hotel, South Street, Midhurst, West Sussex,
The Coaching Inn used by James and Elizabeth as a base in which they found the tunnel to the cavern under the Norman Castle.
One part of the inn is from about 1430 with half timbering and lattice windows. It was originally a hunting lodge. In the main bedroom is a separate wig powdering room, used by travellers over the years and bears the date 1430 on the narrow black door. It is near the door of this room that the ghost of an elderly man with a baldhead, witnesses have seen, and several witnesses have described this apparition as wearing a judicial uniform of scarlet robe, fur facings, black cravat and waistband, with a scarlet hood hanging back over his shoulders. This description fits that of a High Court judge of many years ago.
Steadham, West Sussex.
A small village on the River Rother in West Sussex where Elizabeth takes James at the beginning of The Space Between Time
Nikola Tesla(1856 – 1943)
On March 13 1895 while conducting an experiment he suffered an electrical shock which caused him to be able to see a little into the future and past. He is used in my story, The Space Between Time, to cause the fracture and shift in time.
Sits on a promontory on Loch Ness in Scotland. Chosen for no other reason originally because of James’ surname and of course the Loch Ness Monster.
H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946)
He is instrumental in influencing the time travels of James and Elizabeth. His purpose is not really known save that he seems to work quite close with the Martians.
He shared digs with Horace Byatt at his house in South Street, Midhurst. This information is confirmed by the 1881 census. He was apprenticed in January 1881, to Samuel Cowap, a chemist in Midhurst’s Church Hill.
His Science Fantasy, The Time Machine was published 1895.