My guest today is the lovely Jessica Redland, who, like my previous guest, Helen Phifer, is a Write Romantic. I’m keeping it in the writing family this week! 🙂 Anyway, today Jessica has written a post all about the North Yorkshire setting for her fabulous Whitsborough Bay novels so, without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Jessica.
Location, location, location. When it comes to buying a house, Kirstie and Phil tell us it’s the key consideration. For me, when it comes to writing, location is also key. Reviewers of my books have commented on the amazing setting and how much they’d love to be there. Yet when I started writing my debut novel, Searching for Steven, I didn’t even know where it was set. I knew that my protagonist, Sarah, was going to move from London to somewhere in the North East to run her own business, echoing a move I’d made from Reading to North Yorkshire to open a teddy bear shop. Beyond that, I had no setting or even a sense of a setting.
For the first couple of years, I wrote my first (absolutely dire) drafts of Searching for Steven, pretty much avoiding any mention of location. Sarah had a florist shop somewhere; some vague, nondescript northern town.
And then I closed my shop and moved two hours away to Scarborough where my husband hailed from. I can’t remember whether it was a light bulb moment or a gradual awakening but I’d found my setting: Scarborough.
Or had I?
I wasn’t Scarborough born and bred, and I’d only visited the place a couple of times in my childhood so barely knew it. Did I know enough to set a whole trilogy there? What if I set it in Scarborough and I got something wrong or something changed (for example an iconic building such as Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre being tragically knocked down). And what if the town presented limitations? What if I wanted there to be something that wasn’t actually there? How would I get around that? The answer was simple: set it in a fictional version of Scarborough. And so Whitsborough Bay was born.
Whitsborough Bay is predominantly a fictional version of Scarborough: a town centre on higher ground, with roads and paths down to sea level, two bays, both overlooked by a castle. However, it also takes inspiration from Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay further up the coast.
Sarah’s shop, Flowers & Gifts, is on a street called Castle Street which is a cobbled street full of independent shops and cafés. This street is inspired by Scarborough’s Bar Street and the gorgeous cobbled streets of Whitby. When I wrote Searching for Steven, I didn’t think beyond the trilogy, but Castle Street has since become the setting for another three books. Bear With Me features a teddy bear shop of the same name opposite Flowers & Gifts. The chocolaterie in Charlee and the Chocolate Shop – Charlee’s Chocolates – is next door to Bear With Me and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes features a business at the other end of the street. I can now visualize the street vividly and have built a community which will continue to grow with future books featuring business owners or those who work in the businesses on Castle Street.
It’s not all about Castle Street, though. Several years ago, bootcamps massively grew in popularity and several companies in Scarborough started running them. For 2.5 years, I rose at 5.30am and made my way down to the seafront to exercise, whatever the weather and, for a while, this was a very important and valuable part of my life so I always knew that I wanted to set one of my books in a bootcamp. One of four current WIPs centres around the owner of a beach-based bootcamp business and three of her bootcampers. For another of my WIPs, I move south down the coast to a café called The Stuffed Bun. It’s a few miles outside Whitsborough Bay and has featured in Dreaming About Daran (the final book in the trilogy) and Bear With Me. The location of The Stuffed Bun is completely fictional i.e. there’s nothing like that setting near Scarborough so I’m glad I made a decision to create a fictional setting. For another WIP, we move even further from Whitsborough Bay into The Wolds. The Wolds is a stunning stretch of undulating countryside starting south of Scarborough. I’m excited about exploring this new area and creating some fictional villages and hamlets.
I love where I live. As a writer, there’s so many stunning places from which to draw inspiration – the coast, pretty villages and rolling countryside – and I can’t imagine tiring of this setting although, as I said, I’m excited about a little adventure outside of Whitsborough Bay for future books, to show more of what Yorkshire has to offer. There are so many books of my genre set in London, Cornwall and The Cotswolds so it’s nice to be able to bring somewhere a bit different to the table.
I hope that readers continue to enjoy the fictional world I’ve created as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it. I’d love to hear from you: is setting in a book important to you, and where do you like reading about?
Thanks so much for such an interesting post, Jessica. I may be slightly biased (!) but I think there’s nowhere quite like Yorkshire. It’s a very special place.
If you haven’t already discovered Jessica’s books, now is the perfect time to try her two latest releases, which are the festive treats, Charlee and the Chocolate Shop, and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes.