In most people's lives there are gaps in the account, known only to the person himself. I'd noticed that Susanna, Shakespeare's elder (and favourite) daughter had got married in Stratford at the same time as Shakespeare's youngest brother, Edmund, had fathered a bastard child in London, a boy who died. These were the events of a single summer, 1607. Susanna had been brought up with Edmund; there were only two years between them. Did she know anything of her actor brother's offspring? More than that, what did Shakespeare think of this? We don't know the name of the mother of the child – or anything about her. Then Edmund, not out of his twenties, died in December of that year – the coldest in living memory, the Thames frozen over, frost fairs on the ice. The successful playwright brother paid for the funeral which happened at precisely the time The King's Men (Shakespeare's company) were playing at Court. I don't remember any biographer pointing this out. But the news of Edmund's death reaching the Court - Shakespeare at rehearsal - gave me a scene for 'Pattern of Painful Adventures.' Did it happen quite like that? Of course, we don't know. You fill the gap as truthfully as you can – and as entertainingly. Sometimes you go further. I had difficulties in writing the opening of 'Two Men from Delft,' a play about the painter Vermeer and his executor (and presumed friend) Van Leeuwenhoek. As well being as an account of Van Leeuwenhoek's remarkable microscopic discoveries at the same time as he was managing his friend's bankrupt estate, the play would build up a picture of Vermeer, who never appears. There was an opening scene between Antony Van Leeuwenhoek, a widower, and his only child, a daughter, which was touching. Only it didn't get the play going. I needed a different way in. I didn't want to enter the Vermeer household, a grieving widow, Caterina and many children – though thought I might have to. And then Christiaan Huygens walked in. The intellectual Huygens family, about the most distinguished in Holland at that time, certainly came to know Van Leeuwenhoek. Whether they would give him house room at the time of which I was writing, 1676/7, I'm not so sure. But Christiaan had discovered the rings of Saturn through his telescope; Van Leuuwenhoek was the first to recognise through his home made microscopes what we now know as bacteria, and Vermeer, we now know, used lenses to create those masterpieces of mysterious stillness. Christiaan Huygens, patrician, stepped into my play and (wonderfully enunciated by Alex Jennings) oozed his way into the humbler Van Leeuwenhoek's world. The social division between them made for comedy. A meeting at this stage almost certainly never happened. But needs must….I'd long been interested in Vermeer, had tried writing a play about him in the early Nineties. It must have seemed to him his life had ended in sad failure. The French had invaded the United Provinces – calamitous times. The Dutch flooded their own lands to repel the invader. Rents suffered. The art market collapsed. Vermeer was both artist and dealer. He had eleven or twelve children to feed. The strain was too much. He died in his early forties of what was probably a stroke or apoplexy. In early versions of my attempt at a play he had appeared. But the trick, I realised, was to keep him at one remove – recently dead.. Then 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' came out, Colin Firth brooding but not especially impressive, for once, in his role as the painter. My play went on the back burner for a few years. Annoying, but no bad thing: I had plenty of time to consider my subject. What I liked about Vermeer was that he wasn't commercial. He took a different approach. He was, in effect, subsidised by a private client, who died before him. But, away from the market place, in rooms with dimensions scholars have been able to recreate, soft light entering from windows to his left, the sound of children - perhaps music - elsewhere in the house, he assumed the quiet, personal style we know.