Ahoj

September 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I don’t know how I got through while the others were stopped.

One moment they were all behind me, the next I could hear a man barking in loud and pissed off Czech. I turned, but even while Erica was trying to argue with him, her hand was gesturing to me behind her back:  keep going, keep going.

And so I strode on through.

It was a long way to go for a story, after all.

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I know that my novel could take any number of unexpected turns: after all, when a character grabs control of your pen, writing plans can go out the window. But I do know that my protagonist, Clementine, is named after the Klementinum in Prague, and that a pivotal scene takes place on its steps. I also knew that with three of my closest friends scattered around the world eager to meet me in Europe, renting an apartment together in Prague and doing a little research at the same time would be a damn good way to end my holiday.

I wasn’t wrong, I have to say.

The first day, after a celebratory meal outside Prague Castle that involved bottles of Bohemian Sekt champagne opened with a sword by the waiter, and some prime twerking that I don’t think the red rooftops of Prague had seen before (that’s a whole other story), I took my girls to the Klementinum.

I was a touch overwhelmed, to be honest. In writing about it for so long, the building had taken on epic qualities and to stand in front of it was utterly bewitching. I stared at it for quite a while, taking deep and delighted breaths as I tried to visualise Clem sitting on the steps.

But here’s the thing: there are no steps.

It took me a while to realise. I turned my head to the east, trying to peer down tiny cobbled Karlova, frowning as it dawned on me:  I’d come halfway around the world for this, and there were no god damn steps, not even when I walked around the entire building.

Shit.

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That wasn’t the only problem. I needed Clem to sit there as the Baroque Library inside housed a particular book that held great importance to her, one that had triggered quite ferocious OCD in my crooked toothed heroine. That’s not too much to ask, right? My tour of the Baroque Library rendered me speechless; the ornate detailing of everything, from the book covers to the floor to the beautifully painted ceiling, was superb.  But when I eagerly asked the tour guide ‘So they add classic books to this library, am I correct?’ her curt and utterly Eastern European ‘Exactly no…not since the 1800s,’ made me again snap my notebook shut with a frown.

National Library, Prague

Baroque Library, Prague

I know what you’re thinking…just make it up, right? No-one would know; and either way, it’s a work of fiction. But for someone whose writing honours a distinct sense of place, it was important to me to make it as authentic as I could, at least in my own eyes. And I couldn’t help feeling just a bit…well, jinxed. If I ever needed a hint from the universe that I was on the wrong track (and wouldn’t that be worth flying around the world for?), this was starting to look like just that.

Day three, we were stumbling around the serpentine alleyways in search of lunch when we came across Hotel Clementin and its lovely outdoor restaurant. A couple of bottles of Bohemian Sekt and some goulash and dumplings later, I’d used their free wifi to find that the Klementinum had another library in its complex, a more modern one.

Picture four rather liquored up women on the slippery cobblestones, marching towards with Klemetinum with a mission, a red notebook, and the odd sekt-fuelled hiccup.

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And I was so determined to find my story that I walked right past the guard in his little booth without even glancing his way, straight into the National Library of Prague.

As a laughing friend who’d lived there told me later, ‘You must have looked Czech!’ The girls weren’t so lucky, and as the guard berated them about entrance fees and guided tours, I strode the corridors, nodding at the books like old friends and murmuring Clementine, Clementine, come out and play.

And she did, she did.

A glass door covered in snaking ivy caught my eye. A beautiful little courtyard opened up behind it, deserted and bubbling from a fountain in the middle. On one corner was a statue of a woman with her feet in the water, an open book on her lap.

When I approached, I saw that there were stone steps leading up to it, and I exhaled so deeply the courtyard almost span.

This was where my Clementine sits.

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My whole holiday was rich with joy and colour, and it’s sure to come out in blog posts to follow – caviar and Pushkin in Russia, riding the U-Bahn in my beloved Berlin, haggling in Flemish at a Brussels flea market – but that moment in the courtyard of a Prague library was pretty damn special, imagining my Clementine curled up on the stone.

Now, all I have to do it work out HOW she gets there…

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6 Comments

  1. Leith O'Malley said,

    Ahhhhh…. and so it begins..

    • inkymouth said,

      Russia keeps bubbling up in my ink, Leith…stay tuned!

  2. Dia Holly Hemlock said,

    GOOSEBUMPS!!!

    • inkymouth said,

      Thanks sweetheart…you were there in spirit, trust me.

      • Dia Holly Hemlock said,

        ❤ oh I know… my sneaky spirit can get you in anywhere!!! 😉

  3. Dave Cochran said,

    I’m with you on the perils of story-research. I’d say I have an advantage, in setting my largest stories light-years from Earth, but that’s not really the case. I just discovered a neuroscience error in an early chapter of my main novel project, Morta Felix – so that’s gonna have to be fixed. Man, stories can be hard work – but I suppose that’s the point 😀

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