Tuesday, 16 October 2012

An afternoon of valuable football-related research...

Yesterday I had the chance to do some up-close-and-personal research for this new book of mine by having a little look around a real-life football club, that club happened to be Sunderland A.F.C., and they couldn't have been more welcoming.  From the second me and my Sunderland-supporting husband walked into the impressive marbled interior of the main entrance people were smiling, chatty and incredibly friendly.  Sometimes you can be made to feel as though people are doing you a huge favour when you ask to do things such as have a look around somewhere - especially if you're some unknown indie author like myself who they don't know from Adam - but we weren't made to feel that way at all.

Sunderland's impressive Stadium of Light
A fantastic guy called Nik McDonald showed us around, and right from the off he asked me if there was anywhere in particular I would like to see and then he quite happily took us there - as the main characters in my book are a footballer, his manager, and a female reporter I was particularly interested in seeing places such as the press areas, dressing rooms, and Players' Lounge, which is where we started things off.  And that was the first surprise, because it was a lot smaller than I'd imagined a Players' Lounge to be! 

Nik was also amazing when it came to giving me little bits of incredibly helpful information that are really going to help me fine-tune this book of mine, because, although I have a rather vivid imagination at the best of times, having even a tiny bit of knowledge of how something really works can be a massive help.  Just being inside the club, peeking inside the dressing rooms, the press lounge, going out pitch-side, it all gave me a much better idea of what a football club actually feels like, which means that I, in turn, can now try and make my fictional football club feel that touch more realistic.  And, I have to say, one of my favourite bits of the afternoon was standing in the tunnel, looking out onto the stadium, as Sunderland's "run out" music - 'Dance of the Knights' - was played.  There's a scene in my book where Ryan Fisher (my fictional football player) is standing in the tunnel, waiting to run out onto the pitch for his first match with his new club, and standing there yesterday afternoon, imagining what it must be like for those players when the stadium is full, imagining the adrenalin kick they must feel... that was a great experience!  And I really think Ian, my husband, was like a kid in a toy shop!  It was the first time he's ever set foot inside the Stadium of Light, and he loved it!  We've promised ourselves we have to go back and watch a match there, and soon, because that's another piece of research that I think is essential - I've got to experience a match day if I'm writing about them, haven't I?  And I haven't experienced a match day in decades!  We're talking the late 1980s, actually, so I probably had terrible hair and even worse fashion sense, but I can guarantee one thing - I'd have been as clueless then about the offside rule as I still am today...

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was a great opportunity for me to see inside a real football club, and I just want to say a huge thank you to Nik for taking the time to show me around.  His help has been invaluable, and I'm so grateful.  Sunderland has the feel of a really warm and friendly club, and that visit yesterday has spurred me on to try and make this book of mine even better.  I'm loving creating my own fictional football club, and the characters that go with that, but just getting a tiny insight into things such as how the timings of a match day work, ie: when the players arrive, that kind of thing, that was stuff I had no idea about before.  So, I can now sit down, go back through what I've written so far, and fine tune it all before getting on with the rest of the story.  A story I'm now even more excited to write.  It might sound strange, but getting out and about yesterday, it's spurred me on, made me even more excited about this new novel.

I do have to stress, however, that although I've done some research at Sunderland A.F.C., in my new book the club, characters, and everything associated with that club and its players are fictional.  Nothing in my book is in any way based upon anything or anyone real.  Even the character of Ryan Fisher - my "bad boy" of football, isn't based on any real-life footballer out there right now.  He's purely borne out of my imagination - and I love him!  I only hope some of you will too, but we'll have to wait until early (ish!) 2013 to find out.

In the meantime, I'm now armed with a new flush of inspiration and that's all thanks to the wonderful Nik over there at Sunderland A.F.C. for allowing me to have that little visit yesterday.  It certainly did the job, and now all I've got to do is get my head down, get writing, and get this book finished!  Which would be a lot easier if I hadn't already started faffing about with the title...

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