The Research Behind InkI am so pleased to have the chance to visit and talk a bit about my debut YA novel, Ink. Ink is based in a world where everybody is tattooed, and at death, your skin is preserved and your tattoos become a book in remembrance of a life well lived. Researching for Ink was one of my favourite things. If you’re into creepy, morbid and macabre stuff, read on.
As someone with no tattoos, I needed some real insight and help in order to write accurately and believably about the process. I had the honour of watching Emma Kierzek work and asked her loads of questions. Emma is an award winning artist based at Aurora Tattoo, Lancaster and her creations are amazing – her realistic black and grey portraits are stunning. I really wanted to get the input of a female tattoo artist and it was fascinating hearing her talk about her work. I also visited a local tattoo studio, New Testament Tattoos, where they brilliantly helped me understand more about how they felt as artists and as people with tattoos. AND they didn’t laugh at my stupid questions, at least not to my face.
Also, the exceptional tattoo journalist, Beccy Rimmer from Inkluded has been ace – she works really hard to make tattoo culture accessible and to demystify some of the process. She also shares the work of incredible artists and her own tattoos are so beautiful.
Preserving skin isn’t terribly unusual – the process of creating leather from animal hides is quite normal to us. But the idea of preserving human skin suddenly becomes a lot more sinister-seeming. Thankfully, there are other humans out there who find stuff like this as fascinating as I do and when I found the work of Dr. Gemma Angel at Life and Six Months, I knew I had found my guru. Dr. Angel has studied and handled preserved tattoos and written extensively about them. She also graciously agreed to be interviewed and as a tattooist, writer and reader she was a fount of knowledge and inspiration.
Having read Dr. Angel’s work I knew there were some preserved tattoos at the Wellcome Museum in London and when I had the chance to see them ‘in the flesh’ I couldn’t resist. I was surprised by how emotional I felt seeing these scraps of skin from unknown men.
The world of Saintstone is one where death isn’t feared or hidden and the death positivity movement has been a fascinating area of research for me. I was expecting to find things like The Order of the Good Death interesting in a ‘this is quite weird and maybe you’re all vampires’ way – I wasn’t expecting to have my thoughts and plans about my own death completely altered by what I learned. I love the vlogs by Caitlin Doughty and her book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is now one of my favourite non-fiction books of all time.
The thing I have been most struck by is people’s willingness to share their knowledge, expertise and inspiration. I had nothing to offer them but my curiosity and their generosity has impressed me so much.
Alice Broadway drinks more tea than is really necessary loves writing in her yellow camper van. She hates being too cold or too hot, and really likes wearing lipstick and watching terrible Christmas movies.@alicecrumbs | www.alice-broadway.com
Huge thank you to Alice for the fascinating post! I love learning about the research behind a story. Ink is available to buy now, and keep an eye out here for my review soon!