We asked Eleanor Limprecht a few questions ahead of her seminar this Wednesday evening at Writing NSW. On the evening, she will share how to effectively utilise research tools in order to sharpen your prose—whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.
Does research provoke the inspiration for your novels, or does the inspiration lead the research?
I have had instances of both. For my first historical novel, Long Bay, the research provoked the inspiration. I was out at NSW State Records reading about the Women’s Reformatory at Long Bay when I discovered the case of Rebecca Sinclair, a young abortionist convicted of manslaughter who gave birth to a daughter in prison. Her story was so fascinating that I ended up basing the entire novel on her true story.
With my most recent novel, The Passengers, the inspiration led the research. I knew nothing about Australian war brides who moved to the US after WWII but I heard a few anecdotes and was fascinated. I felt an instinctive pull towards the story because I moved to Australia for love in my early twenties, knowing no one except the Australian I had met a few months prior. This inspiration and instinct led me to the research, which eventually took me to the US to meet Australian war brides in their nineties.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you began researching?
I wish that I knew to write down every single bibliographical detail of my sources! I have wasted so much time searching for a source which I found once but didn’t record properly, and then struggled to find again. Now I write down all of the details, save archival and library slips and—just to be safe—take photographs.
What do you do when research kicks up something unexpected—maybe even something that doesn’t sit easily with your original idea?
I become excited, because this is where the story often is, in the unexpected. My novels rarely end up in the shape I imagine them in originally, but that is what keeps me interested. They evolve, as the story does, with research, knowledge, and the beautiful thing that happens when research meets imagination.
Eleanor Limprecht is the author of three novels: The Passengers, Long Bay and What Was Left, which was shortlisted for the 2014 ALS Gold Medal. She writes contemporary and historical fiction, essays, book reviews and short fiction. Her short stories have been in Best Australian Stories, Sleepers Almanac, and Kill Your Darlings. She teaches creative writing at UTS, where she received her Doctorate of Creative Arts in Writing.
Finding the Detail: Research Tools for Writers will take place at Writing NSW this Wednesday 17 October, 6:30-9pm. Book your spot here >