Today, I have an “extra” guest post by Paula Martin. Paula writes romances set in beautiful Ireland, and for this post, she’s talking about why she chose that location, what it means to her, and how she goes about researching the area to make sure the settings for her stories seem totally authentic. Like many people in the UK, I have Irish ancestry, but I’ve never actually been to the country, so this makes fascinating reading! Over to you, Paula.
I’m not Irish, I’ve never lived there, but I have written four novels set in Ireland, and have almost finished a fifth.
Why Ireland? Ten years ago, I visited the west of Ireland for the first time, and fell in love with it, especially the wild open countryside of Connemara in County Galway. I’ve been back to that area half a dozen times since that first visit, so when I decided to set a novel there, I thought it would be relatively easy to bring in lots of local ‘colour’ into my story.
I have dozens of my own photos, a pile of information leaflets and booklets (because I always seem to collect those wherever I go) and, of course, my memories. Was that enough? The short answer is no.
I realised very soon that, unless you go somewhere specifically to research an area, all the photos, information, and memories are not detailed enough to answer the many questions that crop up while you’re writing a story. One simple example was how long it takes to drive from Galway city to the town of Clifden. I’ve done that drive several times, but, of course, I never thought to time it.
This, of course, is where internet search engines are invaluable, unlike the BC (Before Computers) era in the 1960s and 1970s when I was writing my early novels, and had to spend hours in the library checking my facts. Now, with one click, you can find out the distance between two places and how long it takes to drive there, as well as other information you need.
One of the best resources, in my opinion, is Google’s ‘Street View’. I’ve had fun ‘driving’ around Clifden, the small town where my stories are set, and its surrounding area. So much so that when I actually paid my next visit to Clifden, I felt I knew every street in the town!
Although I’ve used a ‘real’ town, the house in my Irish series (‘Mist Na Mara’) is a figment of my imagination. I can picture it, but I kept the actual location fairly vague (‘about a mile from the centre of Clifden’), because I know there are no Victorian houses in the area where I wanted it to be situated. I also re-named some of the pubs and shops in the town rather than identify actual businesses there. The only exception was the All Things Connemara shop, because they were kind enough to taken some copies of my books to sell, so I felt they deserved a mention!
When I needed a character in my second book to live in a village near Clifden, I actually ‘moved’ a village in County Mayo to the location of another village in County Galway, combined the two villages, and gave ‘my’ village a different name. It must have seemed authentic, because one reader said she’d searched for it on a map but couldn’t find it!
I’ve always said I am happier writing about places I know, but I’ve realised that, unless you live or have lived in a place and know it like the back of your hand, you still need to do a lot of research to get your facts right.
Not just facts either. There are the sights and sounds, and sometimes even that indefinable ‘feel’ of an area, and I enjoyed reliving my memories and capturing these in my stories. I’m especially thrilled when reviewers say things like ‘This book makes me want to visit Ireland now as Paula made it come alive in her descriptions of the landscape’. It confirms my feelings that personal experience is the best kind of research into the setting for your novel.
Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.
She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.
Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.
Mist Na Mara Series, Book 1: ‘Irish Inheritance’
English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are considered ‘family’, they discover surprising links to the original owners of the house.
They soon unravel an intriguing tale of a 19th century love affair. At the same time, their mutual attraction grows, despite personal reasons for not wanting romantic involvements at this point in their lives.
A local property agent appears to have her own agenda concerning the house while other events pull Jenna and Guy back to separate lives in London and America. Friction builds over their decision about the house and its contents.
Will their Irish inheritance eventually bring them together – or drive them apart?
The other 3 (soon to be 4) books in the series are stand-alone novels, but they are all set in the same area.
Paula’s books are published by Tirgearr. Find her on their website.
And check out her own website.
You can find Paula on Facebook, and she’s on Twitter as @PaulaRomances.