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Tom Learmont Discusses Writing on Location and Historical Veracity in Speculative Fiction

Light Across TimeTom Learmont, author of Light Across Time, spoke to Nick Wood about the challenges of writing a love story using scientific speculation as a backdrop. Learmont reveals that he often writes on location and conducts thorough research of the historical locations. To achieve the “first hand experience” of Calais in the 1530s, Learmont says he referred to the “Lyell papers” , which he bought for R10 from Pick ‘n Pay:

I picked Tom Learmont up from Finchley Central tube station in North London and we made our way to a nearby pub for a conversation. Tom asked if this was my ‘local’ and I professed to not yet culturally assimilating into Britain, even after 13 years — the pub had been chosen purely for convenience’s sake — and was empty, bar a couple of people and a pile of discarded bottles! It must have seemed like a far-cry indeed from the reported vibrancy of his more familiar drinking space, the Radium Beer Hall in Johannesburg:

In good spirit though, Tom did not let the dullness of our surroundings phase him and we passed the time in lively conversation, while he nursed a pint of the local bitter. Tom spoke initially of the immediate inspiration for Light Across Time — he’d been gripped by Philip Jose Farmer’s book Tarzan Alive, which uses a biographical and scientific approach to transfer the legend of Tarzan into the realm of apparent credibility. Tom himself had a freewheeling range of ideas linking evolution and the geology of ‘weird events’ — such as strange lights and reported alien visitations — into a scientific narrative, providing the dramatic backdrop for a love story.

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