Thursday, 8 September 2011

Arctic Adventure: Day One

This is a blog of my trip to Tromso and Hammerfest a week ago. An entry a day, as I toured northern Norway to research settings and storylines for my next novel.

I have wanted to go to Tromso for years. It appeals to me because it's the most northern city in the world. It's almost at the top of Norway, with nothing but water and ice before you hit the North Pole.

For some reason that idea has obsessed me. To go somewhere like that. The only way that is going to happen is if I set a book there.

The story - probably called WHITE FEAR - is about five children who are trying to prevent WW3 breaking out. As the ice melts in the Arctic Circle, more oil, gas and other resources are made accessible - and several countries want to lay a claim. It could easily be a source of enormous tension within years.

That's the backdrop. The story will consist of the children listening in, following, chasing, being chased and - in the darkest scene - being hunted like animals across the mountains around Tromso.

That's why I went up to the mountains today. It was wonderful.

First, I took a cable car, then hiked into the mountains behind. I wasn't sure what I was looking for. That's part of the reason for going: to get ideas, to see what might work and what might not. It's the easiest and most exciting part of writing a book. Anything can happen.

I found:

* a mountain refuge hut - perfect for the children to hide in when hit by a blizzard and now I know exactly what they look like and how they could save the children's lives

* an Arctic hare the size of a goat - something for them to hunt, as they may be up there some time

* spectacular views of fjords, mountains, glaciers and how they made me feel - to help with the description

* a plane coming into the airport, so low that I was above it and could see the pilot's face - ideas for a military or search flight in the story

* the cable car itself and how it rocked in the wind - that just has to be involved, the peril will be fantastic, hanging on a wire in a metal box in a howling gale

But, more than anything, it was the feel of a place that I was after. How it felt to be up there for four hours seeing no other person. The power of the wind and how it pushed me around. The rocks underfoot. Then the bare soil stripped of life, except for a few dead roots. The feelings of loneliness, paranoia, excitement and heightened alertness.

I like setting books in new and distant places. I have set books in Ghana and Moscow in the past and like to think I caught the feel of the places. I went to Ghana and Moscow too. They're both such different places to England and they would have been weaker books had I not visited them. I got details I could include, but, equally importantly, I left things out that I might have included. Errors. Cliches. Inaccuracies.

That's why I went to Tromso.

Tomorrow, I'm going to all the museums in Tromso, devoted to explorers like Nansen and Amundsen. I want to work in an exploration dimension to the book, but I'm not sure what. The museums will help me.

Then, that evening, I will head off on a boat to the very northern tip of Norway.

No comments: