One of the things I enjoy while reading is finding out about places I haven’t visited, and in many cases may never be able to visit. Yes, I can watch holiday programmes and check out travel websites, but there is something very different about reading of the daily details of life in another country that you don’t get in travel programmes. Just the act of being filmed or watched makes the daily routine a changed reality.
Some books have such a strong sense of place that the setting can become another character. This place can be real, for example the wild and rugged moors and Cornish coastline of Daphne du Maurier’s novels. Or, it can exist solely in the imagination of the author as with Middle Earth and The Shire. In some books the setting is everything and the story couldn’t exist anywhere else.
I’ve read books set in exotic locations very different to where I live, and also places that are similar to those I’ve experienced. Some years ago a writer friend said they didn’t set their books in New Zealand as they didn’t consider it glamorous enough. Perhaps not glamorous to people who live here, but many people in other parts of the world think of New Zealand as very different (or even exotic).
The settings in some books are determined by the events that happen. For example, Lives Interrupted is set in London at the time of the London bombings and involves that incident. An ancient stone circle is an important location in my most recent crime novel, The Worst Lie, and so couldn’t be set in a relatively ‘new’ country such as New Zealand.
I’ve often gained an interest in a country or city while reading a book set there and then discovered that the writer either lives, or has lived there. This in turn makes me wonder about the number of authors who write about places they know compared to those who set their novels someplace they’ve never been. If you’ve ever wondered the same thing, here’s an article I found recently on that very topic. Do Authors Write Where They Know?