Trams, Trumpets and Trenches: Historical Novel Research

Scroll down—my first poll! 

I’ve been writing my book since February. But I’d been researching for a year before that. You know how it goes—research is a great way to distract from getting actual words on a page. To tear myself away from such fascinating capillaries of (never ending) research and get my butt in the chair and actually write, was difficult at first. Looking back from the half-way point, I know now I researched too long and too deeply. But I have no regrets—I’ll know for next time, and some of the conversations I’ve had along the way have blown my mind.

People’s generousness and willingness to help is overwhelming: I’ve talked for hours to the 90-year-old Kiwi wife of a Connecticut trumpeter based in Auckland in 1944 (incredible); I’ve had help from experts on war, adoption, jazz, the recording industry, Hawaiian music, local history, dance, military uniforms and, most recently, experts on Auckland’s transport history.

Thanks Georgina White and Sean Millar

Thanks Georgina White and Sean Millar









I could even consider myself a fledgling expert on the social and cultural implications of New Zealand’s hosting of between 15,000 and 45,000 United States servicemen at any one time during WW2, while New Zealand men were fighting overseas.

All of it—fascinating, to me.

Not for the last time, THANK YOU to everyone who has helped me so far.

‘Why do you always get out books about boring old trams, Mummy?’ my daughter asked.

‘Trams are not boring,’ I said. ‘How else would I get my characters around my book?’

Researching trams and trolleybuses has helped me visualize the time period I’m writing about. This morning, I walked up Manukau Road in Epsom, where my latest chapter is set. I swear I saw the ghost of an old red tram—its dark red body plastered with posters, old and heavy under the bright sun—heaving its way past me.

If you’ve got a minute, let me know what topics interest you in my first ever poll! Until next time,


NB: I had a problem crediting the tram image. It is of an Auckland tram, taken by Graham Stewart.

5 thoughts on “Trams, Trumpets and Trenches: Historical Novel Research

  1. I can’t wait to read your book! This brings back memories – my Dad drove trolley buses in Auckland when he was 21 – rather a long time ago now – and he used to tell me stories about it 🙂


      • He’s 65 now, so it would have been 44 years ago … he’s in America at the moment, but when he gets back at the end of the month I will get him to tell me some stories again, if I try and relay them I will get them wrong!


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