Rounding off my Choc Lit Week is a guest post by Kathryn Freeman whose latest book Before You is set in the world of Formula One motor racing. Those of you who watch Formula 1 will recognise the scene on the front cover as being in Monaco. I’ve actually driven on that road. Okay so it was in an old Ford Orion on a camping trip many years ago, but that still means I can say I’ve driven the Grand Prix track at Monaco! Before You will be published as an e-book by Choc Lit on 21st June and you can order a copy here: Before You. I have a giveaway, open internationally, to win an e-copy of the book. Don’t forget, all my giveaways this week are open until midnight (UK time) on Sunday 19th June.
Thanks to ChocLit who have been so generous this week, I can offer you the chance to win an e-copy of Before You. This giveaway is open internationally and you can enter up to midnight UK time on Sunday 19th June. The winner will be advised within 24 hours.
All in the name of research: by Kathryn Freeman
Thank you so much for inviting me onto the Portobello Book Blog for Choc Lit week. It’s a privilege to be on such a great blog – and in such great company.
I thought I’d write about the research I undertook for Before You, which is set in the world of motorsport. To be honest, I thought I already knew a fair bit the sport. I live in a male dominated household so Formula One is often on the television – and since I noticed Jenson Button I’m often glued to it! . In recent years I’ve been lucky enough to go to Spa and Silverstone so I’ve seen it live, sampled the atmosphere, heard the engines, smelt the rubber, felt the speed. Seen Jenson close up.
Surely I knew enough to write a love story where racing was a backdrop?
I quickly discovered that when it came to writing the book, rather than doodling around with ideas, I didn’t know nearly enough. I’ve seen the sport as a spectator, but Aiden Foster (racing driver) and Melanie Taylor (press officer) live the sport. The activity we see on the track is such a small part of their overall life, and I had to discover what they did outside that time.
What does a racing driver do between races? Is he limited with his diet? How fit does he have to be? Even at the track, what’s he doing when he’s not in the car?
Formula One Racing for Dummies gave me insight into strategy, personnel, tracks, and described a typical week for a racing driver outside racing (testing, press conferences and sponsor commitments). It hinted at the diet and exercise regime drivers have to maintain, though I researched this more on-line. Nowadays drivers have nutritionists who advise on a diet high in complex carbohydrates with minimal fat to keep the heart healthy as it needs to surge from 60 beats a minute at rest to 240 beats during a race. In fact Formula one drivers are one of the fittest athletes around, with each race likened to running a marathon. This came as a shock to me, as I’d naively thought they were just sitting down. At they speeds they travel though, they have hugely powerful g-forces to content with – almost as much as those of a fighter pilot. In addition there’s the extreme heat in the cockpit – drivers can sweat off anything up to 3kg of their body weight during the course of a race.
So Racing for Dummies helped with the racing, but what about behind the scenes at the track – the notorious Paddock? I knew Mel and Aiden would spend a lot of time there but I’d never been (not glamorous/rich/famous enough!). I found another book called Formula One Paddock in a charity shop and though a bit dated, the photographs gave a really good flavour of Paddock life. In particular it helped me visualise the huge motorhomes that line the Paddock, home to the teams during the Grand Prix. They house offices, driver rooms, hospitality suite, canteen and bar – all constructed on site from one (or I should say several) huge trucks.
My next tricky moment was when I wanted Aiden (my racing driver) to stay in a motorhome while he was racing in Europe (for reasons that will become obvious if you read the book). I knew several drivers had opted for this rather than a hotel so I googled motorhomes owned by racing drivers and found a fabulous one that used to be owned by Jenson Button. Here it is if you want to take a peek: http://luxurymotorhomeforhire.co.uk/history.html. This gave me a flavour of what was possible – beyond my experience of caravan camping in the seventies…
But what about my heroine, press officer Melanie Taylor? I had a vague idea of what a press officer did, but not specifically a Formula I press officer so I contacted McClaren. They suggested I read Super Ego by Julia Wurz, who used to run the Press Office for the Benetton Formula 1 Team. Though her book was fiction, it was written about a press officer and I picked up many useful things that are hard to research, like the fact that she always watched the race from the pit garage, not from the stands, because it meant she was closer to the action.
I’ve found learning about new and varied things is one of the unexpected side benefits of writing. When I embarked on writing Before You, I would never have thought that by the end of it I’d know more than my family about Formula One. Of course they say I only know more about the trivial parts. Still, I hope it is those little morsels, sprinkled over layers of action and romance, that help make a good story.
Where to find Kathryn Freeman