Monday, 10 August 2020
(I know, I know, I couldn't resist it...)
Dear friends and supporters,
Today has brought one of those infuriating Things That Happen Sometimes. It is the deadline for returning the corrected proofs of IMMORTAL. Would you be able to sleep if it's 30 degrees plus and you have a few hours left to perfect 125,000 words that will probably be sitting on someone's shelf long after you're pushing up the daisies? Surprise, surprise, I was wide awake and googling at 4am.
It's extraordinary the kind of things that slip through to proof stage when you know you should have trapped, squished and binned them months ago. The correct spelling, for instance, of Hungarian Vizslas. (Yes, there are some dogs in the book.) Or a significant statue, deriving from ancient Greece: do we call her Venus Callipyge or Aphrodite Kallipygos? And where, oh where, is that chateau in south Moravia that Josephine and her second husband, Stackelberg, tried to buy in 1810-11 which left them financially ruined in the runaway inflation? As with so many couples of all eras who try to heal their relationship by buying a house, this move was a terrible mistake.
I've been hunting for this house for about four years. I have never managed to find it. Therese's memoirs call it 'Witschapp' and all I knew was that it was a large estate not far from Znaim (today's Znojmo), that it belonged to a widowed Countess Trauttmansdorff - and that there appear to be more chateaux per square metre in south Moravia than there are chocolate shops in Bruges, which is really saying something. Aristocratic families such as the Trauttmansdorffs, Liechtensteins, Kinskys and Lobkowitzes owned many, if not most of them.
This morning at 4.30am I found it. At least, the most likely candidate yet. It was in the right region; it was owned by a Countess Trauttmansdorff around the right time; and it is gorgeously romantic. You can imagine Josephine falling in love with such a place, deep in the countryside in the Moravian 'highlands', surrounded by glorious landscapes, priding itself on its pure air, deep nights and spring water.
The reason that this place is not in most online guides to Moravian castles is that it's currently a luxury spa hotel. (Just think, maybe I could have gone and stayed there and claimed it on expenses as a research trip...) It's called Chateau Herálec. Pictured above. Isn't it gorgeous?
So there we have it, I am 90% sure this is the right place and I had a few hours to integrate some impression of its reality into the otherwise rather bare and nasty dramatic scenes that take place there. Not wanting to push up the word count again, knowing it's really too late to do more remedial work to the book, I slotted in a few sentences, adjusted some adjectives, lobbed in a landscape, and that was about it.
Years of googling, finally fulfilled, result in three or four sentences. And this is probably why more people do not let themselves be drawn into writing this type of book. What appears in it is perhaps 10 per cent of the preparatory research, and you can bet your bottom dollar that every reader will find a different mistake or omission to point out to me once it's too late to do anything about it.
The plan is that the book goes to print at the end of this week. The next stage will be all about planning for the concerts and other events that were/maybe are still supposed to happen in the autumn around the release date - if any can go ahead in any form. Watch this space...
Stay cool, keep well and enjoy the sunshine.
Love and best wishes,