A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Hedgerows, Technology, and Dried Froop

There’s that moment, writing a novel set in the past, when a character needs to eat and I realise that I have no idea what they would have eaten. I can’t very well have them run out to MacDonald’s to order a burger if they’re living in 1940’s Germany. Or grab a bag of crisps from the cupboard if they’re in 1920’s Russia.

That’s when I think maybe I should have written something with a contemporary setting. Or maybe a futuristic one, where I could make my characters eat dried froop wheat if that’s what took my fancy.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 08.43.20

Not available in Ukraine.

And then there are the clothes to consider, and the culture, and the mindset, the politics, the fears, the hopes and . . . well, you get the idea. There’s a lot to research and, if that isn’t challenging enough, there’s always someone out there who is hoping to find factual inaccuracies. One reader penned a scathing review because I used the word ‘hedgerow’ in a story about 1930’s Ukraine. Apparently that’s a factual impossibility. They don’t have them. Well . . . yeah, but I write fiction. And although I try to get the details right, I don’t mind skewing them, just a little, if it makes for a better story. After all, the story is king.

But one of the great things about writing stories set in the past is that I can give technology a big kick up the backside and send it spinning into the void. Don’t get me wrong; I love technology and have no idea where I’d be without it, but it totally gets in the way of the kinds of stories I like to tell. When help is just a phone call away, and finding information means tapping a few keys on a computer, things can be just too easy for my characters. I often have to either find a way to integrate it, or a way to jettison it. One method is to turn back the clock. Another is to drop my character in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but a bow, a knife and . . . oh, and a President.

That’s all.

About dansmithsbooks

Dan Smith, author of adult thrillers and adventure/survival stories for younger readers. See more of me at

One comment on “Hedgerows, Technology, and Dried Froop

  1. Hawksword
    March 23, 2015

    Ah hedgerows – places of infinite diversity. Dividing the land and providing homes and sustainance for country critters. But very English, I think. Does any other country have such a thing, even by another name?

    And I believe that may be dried froop wheat splattered on my windscreen…

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