One of the things I find fascinating about setting is how the location can add to the mood of a book. A gothic manor house gives a very different feel to a story compared to an island beach resort.
“Places are never just places in a piece of writing. If they are, the author has failed. Setting is not inert. It is activated by point of view.” – Carmen Maria Machado, In The Dream House.
The same setting can be viewed in many different ways depending on the genre of the novel and the narrator of the story. A beach scene can be romantic or it can become downbeat, melancholy and even heart-breaking if that is how the point-of-view character sees it. Even the mood of the weather can be dependent on the viewpoint of characters and also genre. A thunderstorm in a crime thriller might give the reader a premonition of dark deeds about to happen, but if that same thunderstorm happens in a romance then it could easily lead to a first kiss, or be the prelude to an evening drying out in front of a roaring fire.
Some authors write about places they know well, while others write about countries and cities they’ve never visited. Fantasy and sci-fi authors create entire worlds that exist only in their imagination and those of their readers. The settings in my books tend to be a mix of real places and those I fictionalise so I can change the area to suit my story. Below are examples of both.
The Worst Lie
One of the main settings for this book is an ancient stone circle. I began with thoughts of Avebury rather than Stonehenge as I wanted a more informal setting that allowed visitors to wander through the stones. However, for story purposes the village needed to be larger, and I wanted two concentric circles with stones set closer together and so I created Little Stillford. In the book, during the day the stone circles appear relatively benign but surrounded by woods they take on a different feel at night.
The photos below are of the stones at Avebury.
An early scene in the book is set in Bristol during Eden’s university days where she and Madelaine wander from their flat down Park Street towards Bristol centre.
A Kiwi Christmas Romance and The Second Chance Christmas
These two books are mostly set in the Coromandel peninsula of New Zealand. It is a beautiful area of forest, beaches and small towns. However, The Second Chance Christmas opens with Poppy at a conference in Darling Harbour, Sydney.
The photos are of the Sydney Opera House (I bet you guessed that!), Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour.
After the opening scenes in London and Sydney the action then moves to the Coromandel. Lauren, one of the main characters, is a budding photographer and several scenes in the first book were inspired by places I’ve visited such as Cathedral Cove and the colours of the trees etched against the sky on the path to the cove. However, the waterfall in my photo isn’t quite as remote as the one mentioned in both books.
Lies of the Dead
The settings in Lies of the Dead move between Poldrayth, the Cornish village where Tom grew up, and Bristol, where his sister Andi now lives. Poldrayth is based on a real Cornish village which I fictionalised to be able to mess around with the geography. Cornwall is another place I love, and I had plenty of good memories to draw on while creating the village and its surrounds. The coastal path with the old pump house and the colourful mix of heather and gorse takes centre stage for several scenes, becoming a very different place after Tom has been threatened and fears he is being followed.
Along with the unexplained death of her brother, Andi also has her own problems which include a separation from her husband and an annoying private investigator. I enjoyed using some of my favourite places for her expeditions such as the Downs near the Clifton Suspension Bridge and a weekend visit to Bath. Later, Tom and Andi discover some obscure clues that Liam left with a lawyer. I imagined them walking along Broad Street and Corn Street in central Bristol to the lawyer’s office, and then later receiving a threatening phone call while they’re at a café on the Harbourside discussing the new discoveries.
I love finding out a little more about the background and settings to my favourite books. If you have never visited the places in my books I hope this has helped you to visualise them a little more.