To continue the celebration of the release of the Tea Chest, a simply stunning book, the author Josephine Moon has written what it was like to research her novel.
Researching The Tea Chest
By Josephine Moon
As a writer, one of my favourite aspects of a book’s journey is the research. I just love falling into a textbook, or a glossy book of photos, or skimming through the internet and stumbling across rabbit trails of information that hook me and transport me to another place or sensory experience. Words turn to images in my mind and images come together to form scenes, plot complications and motivations for characters. My characters passion is picked up by my characters and the story takes off in unexpected ways.
There were three main areas of research for the book: the teas; locations; and time periods. As far as the teas went, my true passions lie with herbs and fruits and flavours, so these became my greatest point of exploration. In the past, I studied aromatherapy, the basis of which is herbs, flowers and trees. So I had a wealth of knowledge in my head about that and many textbooks on hand to pull out when I needed to. It was tremendous fun applying the same aromatherapy blending techniques to herbal teas and I created many new tea blends in my mind, many of which made it to the pages of the book.
Another area of research regarded London. I have been to London, but only for a week, and it was a few years back, so I did a lot of Google Map walking the streets of the city. I found it difficult to decide on a location for The Tea Chest. In the first draft, I had it in Portobello Road (famous for its markets) but I didn’t like the feel of it. I wanted The Tea Chest to be somewhere uber gorgeous and upmarket, both because that’s the vibe of the store but also because I wanted to put a lot of pressure on my main character to make the store succeed.
I’m quite ‘geographically challenged’, and Google Maps kept spinning me around and so I ended up hand drawing a map of Kings Road, my ultimate destination for the shop, and drawing in the shops around it. And that map sat on my wall for a long time.
Fortunately for me, I have a great friend, Kathleen, who lived in London for ten years. Possibly unfortunately for her, that meant I sent her dozens of annoying questions, including anything I thought was stupid but I should ask anyway, just in case. Like, does the sun still rise in the east (because, you know, water spins the other way in the northern hemisphere)? I just wanted to be totally sure! And she read my whole manuscript and vetted everything for me, which was a tremendous relief. My sister had also lived in London for a couple of years and she helped me early on to find all my characters homes, which was a great help.
Lastly, I needed to research different time periods so I could write flashback scenes for Judy and Simone. That was tremendous fun. I just love period research—the clothes, the food, the alcohol, the buildings. It really gives me a great boost and I always feel it somehow tethers me to a scene because it gives me strong boundaries to work within, rather than me rambling off in any direction.
All this research was time consuming, occasionally challenged my spatial abilities, but ultimately really rewarding and I think made my book much richer for it.