Researching a book based on her father’s experiences as a prisoner of war during the Second World War, Sue Purkiss journeyed to Poland, to see for herself the places he had described in his stories. In doing so, she gained a deeper understanding of what her father had been through, and of the man he was.
Sue Purkiss wonders whether research trips are really essential, or whether one shouldn't rely on imagination when writing about a place one has never been, comparing examples of those who ‘go’, and those whose prefer ‘not to go’.
Researching a children’s book set in the time of King Alfred takes Sue Purkiss to Athelney, in Somerset — and, ultimately, leads her to a character she did not expect to use in her story: Alfred’s daughter, Aethelflaed. She finds that historical research can offer a writer the raw materials she needs, but it can also give her the confidence to leave historical realism behind.