Kathleen Kent: The Research Process, aka Building a Giant

Most of the research for The Wolves of Andover was done the old fashioned way; with conventional explorations of historical source material of the colonies and Restoration England found in libraries or bookstores.  There is a wealth of information that gives the Who, What, When and Where of that period of time, and I spent several years compiling notebooks of information about the spy rings of Charles II, and the flight of the regicides to New England.

But to find the Why of the characters I had been developing, especially for Thomas Carrier, one of the novel’s main characters, and my grandfather back nine generations, I thought it would be important to travel to Wales.   Dylan Thomas writes of the Welsh countryside, “the carved limbs in the rock leap, as to trumpets”, and I wanted to see, and feel, for myself the land that had helped to shape his character.

Before leaving for Wales, I didn’t have much tangible information about Thomas—only an approximate date of birth, no history about his native family in Wales—and all the documents regarding his livelihood and family status came from Massachusetts and Connecticut; sparse records of a farmer in the new world.  But I did have my family’s stories, a good many of which painted a portrait of a soldier who had first been a bodyguard to King Charles I, and who later fought for Cromwell during the English Civil War.

Not knowing for certain where he had been born, I travelled to one of the most beautiful towns in Wales—Conwy—not far from Mount Snowdon.  The 13th century castle, and its battlements, had been built to subdue the rebellious Welsh.

It was there, travelling through the nearby villages, experiencing the hard, rocky ground, the changeable weather, and the breathtaking views of Mount Snowdon that I began to formulate a substantive character.   I came to believe that an English King’s invading fortress gave him his strength of will, but that the lyrical, savage beauty of the countryside gave him his heart.—Kathleen Kent

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