TATTOOS. It was a great subject, and one that other novelists or indeed historians seemed to have failed to investigate ...
So author Sarah Hall wrote her second book, The Electric Michelangelo, all about them.
It's set in Morecambe Bay and New York's Coney Island, in the 1950s.
And she'll be reading from it at the Huddersfield Literature Festival tomorrow.
She's sharing a bill with up-and-coming author Peter Hobbs in Huddersfield University's Milton Building, at 9.45pm.
Carlisle-based Sarah, 31, started writing seriously a decade ago. Her first taste of getting her work in print was poetry in magazines.
She worked hard on her first novel, under the guidance of a contact at top publisher Faber and Faber.
But, in the end, he had to tell her: "Sorry but it's not publishable. Drop it and write something else."
It was a crushing blow but the piece of constructive criticism she really needed to get started on her debut book, Haweswater.
The Electric Michelangelo, released in 2004, made the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize and won all sorts of acclaim.
Another book is in the pipeline, but not yet ready for a public airing.
Sarah says: "I write at the kitchen table at home.
"It's important for me to be able to get to the kettle in three seconds.
"I like the quiet, but I can go a bit cuckoo.
"At the end of the day I have to make sure I go out and talk to someone, a real person."
Sarah herself has a tattoo she had done 10 years ago, an abstract pattern.
She says: "Three or four years ago I started thinking about the whole subject of tattoos.
"They're not taken seriously, no-one's written any real history of them. They're associated with fairs and freak shows."
She persuaded a tattooist friend in Morecambe to talk her through the ins and outs of his art.
"It was brilliant," she says. "He told some great anecdotes.
"Tattooists used to congregate at the seaside. People would have one done on their holidays, and sailors got them when they came ashore.
"I love old-fashioned seaside towns. As a child, I always got taken to Kent for a beach holiday of shingle and ice cream."
A far cry away from landlocked Huddersfield, to which she probably won't be bringing a bucket and spade.
Sarah is excited about the festival, the first for the town.
She says: "It's a good event with the emphasis on writers, not TV cooks who've written a cookbook, or politicians who're promoting their life stories.
"It's all about proper writing, and novels, and that's the way it should be."
The festival runs for four days from tomorrow. For more information go to www.litfest.org.uk or call 0870 990 5025.