How much research is necessary to write a novel?

People are the roughly the same the world over.  They get angry, things amuse them, they fall in love, they quarrel with their neighbour, they find work difficult, depressing and challenging.  They find all kinds of things challenging.   They take up hobbies.

That doesn’t mean we can write a story set in Cornwall, change the names of the places and people and set it in, say Pune, unless of course we have done the research, either by visiting Pune or by knowing some aspect of it very well.

People may be the same the world over,  but they react differently: they care about different things, they see things differently, according to the culture in which they were born and grew up.  Take for instance Silence, the 1966 novel set in Japan by Shusako Endo, where seventeenth century Japanese traditional culture and religion meet European Catholicism;  or The Sorrow of War (1990) by the Vietnamese writer, Bao Ninh,  who tells the story of a soldier collecting bodies after a battle, thinking about his past. How well, do you think, Maikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (1967) would transpose to Falmouth?  Here, the devil pays a visit to the fanatically atheistic Soviet Union.  I could go on.

For me, stories arise from the people who arise from their environment, wherever it might be.  This is why ancient stories and ancient images, such as Rachael by the well, retain their appeal; yet ancient motives seem foreign.  Try living by the detail prescribed in Leviticus.

What am I trying to say here?

Cornwall deserves better than to be treated as a backdrop that flaps in the breeze.  Its stories are made of granite, kaolin and heavy metal.  Its bodies take a long time rotting in its arsenical soil.  Let’s have some Cornish Realism.