Rosemary hedges were pin-bright with pungent flowers. Beyond, a promenade of cypresses, prelude to a field of lavender. And rising at the end of every view, the dominant theme: the creased blue hills of the Grand Luberon.
from The Lantern
A few days ago I saw the first pale flower of rosemary in the garden. The sun is bright and cold but here is a herald of spring, frail and tentative still. As the earth gradually warms and colours deepen, the great hills that hang like a backdrop beyond this tiny hamlet will be so blue they seem to soak up the sky.
Now and then eagles and hawks will hover above, riding the thermals. The thyme and rosemary and lavender patches will release their musky incense under our feet, and the tender south winds will be silk on the skin. We’ll use the herbs in cooking too, releasing and intensifying their fragrance in the kitchen.
What has this to do with writing? Plenty, I think. I take the view that writing is observation, to a large degree. Attention to detail is what makes a novel seem real, whether it is rooted in a real landscape or real emotions and hopes and fears. What the writer needs more than anything is for the reader to recognize some truth in the words on the page.
When I am drafting a new novel, my most important asset is my notebook - just as it was when I was a journalist. A thousand details will go into it. Some will never be used, or will be cut from a later version, but they are the foundations of the story and the prompts to start each writing day.