Wednesday 22 April 2020

But where is it set?

When an author talks about books, the subject of location invariably comes up. It can be very significant. Some locations, like Cornwall and Scotland, are known to help sell books, particularly romance. Some locations, not so much. Sadly Wales does not put a book into the auto-buy category. Why that should be so remains a bit of a mystery, as the Principality has all the scenery, history and legends that Cornwall and Scotland have. And we have our own language, in daily use!

I was prompted to write this post after reading a couple of Phillip Gwynne Jones’s Venetian thrillers. Yes, he is Welsh, but is also an ex-pat living in Venice, and it certainly shows. The books are steeped in the details of the city and you really feel as if you are there, experiencing it all through the eyes, and senses, of a local.

Not all of us have the opportunity to live in such lovely places. This is when research kicks in. You can do a lot these days by Internet – and at the moment, that, unfortunately is ALL you can do – and by visiting, but, speaking as a writer with obsessional tendencies, there is always that sneaky feeling that you might somewhere, somehow, have missed something that a local would have picked up.

The Albert Bridge, in London, which features
in Never Coming Home
I lived in London for many years and I always use places I know in the books, when I need scenes set in the capital. I also have an ambition to write a ‘London book’ that makes use of the city as part of the action. The homicidal potential of Tube trains also has a horrible fascination. Does this make me a horrible person? No – don’t answer that! I suspect that I will want to go back and stay for a while if that book ever rises to the top of the To Be Written pile. Suspect? Make that know. I love London. Any excuse to go back.

Not that where I am living does not have its attractions, including some fabulous local beaches, but I
I'm planning to locate
two houses above
this piece of local shore line.
don’t think it will automatically sell any books. If you live somewhere that does not lend itself as a location, so you don’t have the benefit of an insider’s knowledge, what do you do? The answer to that one is often to invent somewhere. Then you can move the scenery anywhere you like. As long as you remember where exactly you left that steep hill, the last time you used it, of course. I’ve got plans for a couple of romantic suspense novels set in created places, loosely based on the part of Wales that is my home, but re-engineered to suit the needs of the plot.

But that’s for the future. At the moment, I am firmly based in the Riviera, and really hoping that I will get to check out the locations I’m using again, in person, before too long!

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