Wednesday 27 July 2011

What Country, friends, is this?

Location. Location. Location

Whenever romance authors get together and begin talking about early influences on their writing, the name Mary Stewart invariably comes up, particularly amongst those who write romantic suspense. Her books have the classic ingredients - ambiguous alpha hero, who may be a good guy, or maybe not, independent heroines who are more than a match for the tough guy and European settings which, at the time they were written, must have seemed impossibly exotic - the Greek Islands, the south of France, Austria, Spain, the Isle of Skye (before they built the road). The impact on readers in post war Britain, ten years after the war, but with rationing only just ended and the package holiday still many years into the future was surely exactly what a good romance novel must be - an escape into another world.

And location is still a key ingredient in books and films. Reviews of so many books talk of the location as a character in its own right. Films like The Tourist have ravishing settings - in that case Venice - which give the stars a run for their money in drool appeal. (Although I must say that a cameo appearance by Rufus Sewell brightened the screen considerably for me, and diverted me from rampant palazzo envy.)
I still like books which take me to places I consider to be glamorous - with plenty of sunshine please. And those are the books I like to write. Being in a foreign place is an added layer to the uncertainty felt by the hero and heroine - essential stuff for thrillers/suspense. And it throws them together - essential stuff for the romance. And I get to enjoy the sunshine, even if it is only in my head.

It wasn't until I began thinking about this piece that I realised how much my teenage reading of Mary Stewart had shaped what I now like to write. The power of early influence?  All the ingredients are there - particularly the settings.
There are other things I know influence my writing, but they're something for another post.
And the heading of this one? That's Mary Stewart's influence as well - many of her titles are quotations, often from Shakespeare. That's something we don't do so much now.
Maybe that's another post too - spot the quote.


  1. I could do with some Illyrian sunshine here today as I'm shrouded in misty rain!

    I was very interested to read about placing your hero and heroine of a place of uncertainty; it made me think about how a blissful, sunny location could create as great a sense of alienation as a cold, hostile environment. It's always fascinating, too, to read about writers' influences. See you next Wednesday!

  2. I must admit I love Mary Stewart's books and have probably been influenced by her writing!