Monday, June 17, 2013

Obsessed, moi?

Over the last few days, I have been pestering members of my family to look for a particular very old photograph that used to belong to my paternal grandfather. I want the photograph because I'd like to blog about it - even if it never comes to light, I'll probably still blog about it, but it would naturally be much nicer if I  had the photo to share.

I have very few photographs of my grandparents before they became grandparents - really just this snap of my paternal grandmother as a young woman (left) and a posed wedding photograph of her and my grandfather. So the photograph I am looking for cannot be in my possession; there is nowhere for it to hide in a collection of two! I have therefore been badgering other people to look amongst their own things. So far nothing has come to light but I am still hoping.

Yesterday evening I was relating the progress (or lack of it) to date to my husband, who looked at me with a slightly quizzical expression and asked me why I was so obsessed with this particular photo - at least, I remember him as asking me why I was so "obsessed"; he remembers himself expressing it a bit more diplomatically - "delusionally fixated" perhaps, or something like that.

I'm not sure what I said at the time but I did think about this for a while after the conversation. I do have a bit of a habit of getting fixated on things. Before this photograph, it was the story of the local minister who was hanged in 1682 for infanticide (I have still not entirely finished being fixated with that but have been a bit sidetracked, not to mention ill last week). Before the minister, it was the Silver and then the Ruby Fairy Books. Hmmm, maybe my husband has a point...

To be honest, I don't really know why I want to lay hands on that photograph so very badly. But over the years I have learnt that these little obsessions always lead somewhere. Not necessarily to the place you thought they were going to take you, but always somewhere interesting.

For example, my lifelong "thing" about the ghost stories of M.R.James took an unexpected turn when we moved to Germany in 2001 and found ourselves living within close travelling distance of Steinfeld Abbey, scene of The Treasure of Abbot Thomas. Once I knew that Steinfeld was so close, I couldn't rest until I'd visited it. I wrote an article about it. And then another article. I researched the Steinfeld glass at the headquarters of the Eifel Club in Düren, poring over articles now nearly a century old, and printed in eye-watering Gothic type. I was, for a while, completely obsessed with the topic. Out of that obsession came the question, If it was possible for the Steinfeld glass to vanish for a century and be rediscovered, why shouldn't there be another set of fabulous and priceless mediaeval windows still out there, hidden somewhere? And that was where the idea for The Glass Demon came from.

Come to that, the idea for my very first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, sprouted from a fascination with the folk legends of Bad Münstereifel, where we lived for seven years. When I first developed an interest in those stories, I had no idea of making them into a novel. I was just enthralled by the stories themselves.

I don't know what will come of any of my more recent fixations such as the photograph with which I began this post! Perhaps nothing; perhaps a blog post; perhaps something more. One thing is for certain, however; I couldn't possibly spend the amount of time I do researching obscure topics if I didn't have a passion for them. Some of those fixations have proved incredibly fruitful. I guess, as I told my husband, it's just the way I work! People quite often ask authors where they get their ideas; mine mostly seem to come from those funny little obsessions that nobody else quite understands!

Above: a previous fixation - Steinfeld Abbey! 

NB I will blog at some future point about the photograph - I'm still crossing my fingers that someone may find it! 

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