ADVENTURING AUTHOR: Book Research in England

I didn’t exactly blast this to the world but…I went to England this month. No big deal (she says, screaming.) And I’m sharing a glimpse into that adventure because tomorrow is Thanksgiving and all I keep thinking is, “Wow. God has given me an amazing life. And I want to share it.”

So here is some another tale from the adventuring author that will hopefully inspire you. And will make you feel like you’re invited to my table and to my life (because you are!)

I brought Mister Ninja with me because 1) Someone needs to carry the book-laden bags, 2) I never travel internationally without my Auror bodyguard and 3) there is practically ZERO fun to be had if I don’t get to share fish & chips, sticky toffee pudding, and a train ride with the knight of my life.

Why did I go?

Because my new book, Fawkes, is set in 17th century London. And though I lived in England for several months after college, I didn’t realize–at the time–that I’d be writing a historical fantasy based there. But at the time, I got to know the culture and I spoke in a completely convincing accent (only accidentally, but it’s still one of my proudest moments.) The only downside is that I lived in York (which actually isn’t a downside at all because York is GORGEOUS) and not London (where my story is set.)

This time around, I intentionally walked in the same footsteps as my characters (the ones who actually existed) and to really respect the story I’m telling. I’m writing a story set in a world in which I don’t live. I owe it to the setting and to my characters to give this story all I’ve got. Aka: hardcore research.

When someone asks how much I researched, I want to be able to look them in the eye and say I. Did. It. All. I went as far as I possibly could. And that I respected the story.

What did I research?

The main thing was descriptions. Now maybe it seems like a lot of time and commitment to travel all the way to England for descriptions, but it’s easy to write “Thomas walked from here to here to here” and very different to actually walk it and realize that it takes an hour to walk from Westminster to Hoxton (instead of the 15 minutes you thought it did.)

Mister Ninja snapped a picture of me writing descriptions of the Globe Theater.

I researched places, examined history, chased down inspiration, explored the layout, got a feel for culture and temperament toward the Bonfire Night and Guy Fawkes story. I braved the weather (both rain and shine) and grew sore and hungry like Thomas would after a day of walking. I visited the Tower of London and found the carving of a character’s name in the wall. I questioned a historian and learned things that even Wikipedia and the history books hadn’t taught me.  There is so much to be found in the little things that I couldn’t possibly cover it all.

But we did other things too–not always related to book research. For example:

Platform 9 & 3/4

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a little snub-nosed toward the idea of going to the fake Platform 9 & 3/4 is London. I think maybe it’s because since I was never even ABLE to go, I liked to think that I didn’t NEEEEEEED to go.

Yeah, so I went. Duh. Because I’m a nerd and I’m totally not “too good” to pretend I’m running through a magical barrier in train land. But the line was so long. And I got totally red-face nervous about traveling to Hogwarts in front of a billion strangers. And we ran out of time. So…here’s hubby and me in front of Platform 9 & 3/4….not going in. Because #lines and #time and #shyness.


Holy inspiration. Oxford demands a repeat visit. *heart-eyes* I had a bum foot, so we couldn’t explore Oxford the way I’d originally wanted to, but that just meant we discovered new places we wouldn’t have found otherwise–like Gee’s, the cutest restaurant you will ever eat at. You are basically inside a giant greenhouse. *swoon*

We also visited the Eagle and Child (where the Inklings–including Tolkien and Lewis–used to meet). Then we crossed the street to the Lamb and Flag (also where the Inklings would meet after they the Eagle and Child got renovated) and pretended to be old British author men planning worlds and writing enormous series.

Charles Dickens’ House

We managed to sneak away for a couple hours and visit Charles Dickens’ house in London. He lived in several houses, but he wrote Nicholas Nickelby and (I think) Oliver Twist in this house. So, of course, Mister Ninja had to beg for more porridge.

Being in this house also made me crave (like nobody’s business) Lorie Langdon’s upcoming novel, Olivia Twist.

I share our adventures not to brag (it actually often feels weird sharing them because I hate the idea of it coming off as “hey-look-at-me”.) I share to invite you in. To share my life story while I’m writing the fictional ones. I share because adventures are more powerful when spread out among friends. And by sharing adventures, we can often spark the desire for adventure in others.

I am incredibly thankful for the life and opportunities God has given me. So as I go into this Thanksgiving, I’m reflecting on what a blessed life I have. What provision I’ve been handed. What an adventurous spirit has been sewn to my core. And I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

What are some events or moments from 2017 that you are thankful for?


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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. I’d love to go to England one day!😍 visiting “the old world” sounds like such a great place to gain inspiration for my writing!

  2. Ahhh! This looks like so much fun <3 Thank you for the glimpse into your life 🙂

  3. Oh, wow! That’s so cool. Especially since I’ve been reading a lot of books set in England lately. AND CHARLES DICKENS’ HOUSE! I’m so glad you got to go!

  4. Wowee, your trip looks like it was really awesome! i really want to go to England; the history, history, history…………and my favorite soccer team 😉
    i’m thankful that God gave me a desire to write!!!!!!!!!

  5. Ahh that’s so cool!! I’d love to go travelling to do research, but agh it’s so exciting to see photos of you doing it. Eep, it just makes me so so soooo excited for Fawkes!!!

  6. No way! I live in London. You should have announced you guys were coming. I’ve always thought it would be spectacular to meet you and your husband. (Even though I’m suspecting you guys didn’t say anything at first for the sake of having a secret adventure.)

    • Awww really?!? Yeah, it was such a short trip that we kept it quiet so it’d be a bit of an “us” getaway, but we hope to go back again for a longer time, so I’ll certainly shout it out then!!! We’d love to meet you, too!

  7. I completely understand your hesitancy about posting this and feeling like you’re bragging or something. I recently had the same experience. I had two major highlights, both in November. I have wanted to see Billy Joel in concert since 1989, and I got to see him in Indianapolis with my parents. It exceeded every single expectation! Little did I know that wasn’t going to be the biggest event of the month!
    Last week I was in Milan for a business trip!! When I took the assignment, I never expected to leave the confines of my home office. It was AMAZING! Don’t be surprised if Milan is written into one of my stories.

    • This is AMAZING! I love sharing adventures and hearing about all of the amazing events and places God takes us to! I’m glad you shared, and I’m glad you understood my hesitancy. 🙂

I love hearing from you!