You can’t underestimate the importance of location in some books. Even with great characters, a strong plot and a sound structure, you ignore the value of location, location, location at your peril. Just ask Phil and Kirsty … 😉 Think about it. Can you really imagine Manderley outside of Cornwall? Could Cathy and Heathcliff run wild anywhere but on the Yorkshire Moors? Could Jamie Fraser be anything other than a Highlander? In many novels, the setting becomes another character. I know I’ve occasionally bought books simply because they’re set in my favourite places. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I was delighted to receive this blog post from Rosie Travers, all about her book locations. Over to you, Rosie.
Location, Location, Location
From the craggy coasts of Cornwall to the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors, dramatic landscapes have always provided plenty of inspiration for writers.
I’ve lived on both sides of the Atlantic and been lucky enough to have visited some amazing places over the years. But when it comes to finding the perfect setting for my novels – I prefer to stick closer to home.
I’m a complete pantser. I rarely plot anything and I certainly don’t spend a lot of time conducting in depth research – at least not until I’m many thousands of words in and I start to think I have an idea that might actually work. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to me to set my stories in very familiar locations.
I’d already come up with the primary theme for Your Secret’s Safe With Me thanks to a competition at my local writer’s society’s – write the first 300 words of a woman’s fiction novel. I liked the dynamic I’d created between a mother announcing her surprise engagement and her devastated daughter, and decided to take my 300 words further to see if I could indeed write a complete novel from that opening couple of paragraphs.
Pearl and Becca have a successful professional working partnership, which all changes when romantic novelist Pearl announces her surprise engagement to Jack, a man she has only just met. She uproots Becca and her brother Freddy from their busy lives in London to her new fiancé’s home in a sleepy south coast village. Becca flounders in her new environment, and although the story centres on the changing relationship between mother and daughter, I obviously needed sub-plots and additional situations to test my characters’ resolve. This is where the location came into play.
At the time of writing my romantic suspense Your Secret’s Safe With Me, I was living very close to the River Hamble in Hampshire, a renowned sailing centre. (For anyone old enough to remember – this area was the setting of the BBC Sunday night drama series Howard’s Way, back in the era of big hair and shoulder pads.)
The village of Hamble itself is a busy bustling place, but there are quieter spots further upstream with beautiful riverside walks through woodland, while at the estuary the saltmarshes are wild and remote. Just a little further along the Hampshire coast is the River Beaulieu, on the edge of the New Forest – a tranquil, meandering, less populated spot. Both locations are regular haunts of mine for long walks – and a little wistful speculation.
As I observed sleek shiny white motor cruisers and expensive yachts gliding upstream on these two rivers, my writer’s enquiring mind kicked in. I began to speculate who or what might be onboard and wondered how easy it would be, for some unscrupulous ‘sailors’ to conduct some illegal activities along the more isolated stretches of water. My over-fertile imagination quickly envisaged a situation where unsuspecting newcomers to a riverside community could unwittingly become caught up in some treacherous waterborne intrigue. I decided to place Becca and Pearl firmly in the heart of a riverside community, gave them some very unscrupulous neighbours, and threw in a former lover for Becca, a wedding and a baby, and the story starting telling itself.
The overriding tone of Your Secret’s Safe With Me is light-hearted, but the river winding through Pearl and Becca’s new surroundings became symbolic of their evolving relationship. As the river reveals its hidden dangers, family secrets submerged for many years bubble to the surface. The location itself wasn’t the initial inspiration – but it certainly developed into an integral part of the story.
I grew up on the coast and I do get slightly panicky if I’m away from the sea for too long. There is something quite magical about the ebb and flow of the tide, the changing scenery at high and low water, the jetsam and flotsam washed ashore. I hope it will provide enough inspiration for many more novels to come.
Rosie grew up in Southampton and loved escaping into a good book at a very early age. After several years juggling motherhood and a variety of jobs in local government, she moved to southern California when her husband took an overseas work assignment. With time on her hands she started a blog about ex-pat life which rekindled her teenage desire to become a writer. On her return to the UK she took a creative writing course and the rest, as they say, is history. Her debut novel The Theatre of Dreams was published by Crooked Cat Books in August 2018 and her second novel Your Secret’s Safe With Me was published in February 2019. She is currently working on a series of cosy mysteries.
Your Secret’s Safe With Me
Career girl Becca Gates’ organised life is thrown into chaos with her mother, romantic novelist Pearl, announces her surprise engagement to Jack, a man she has only just met. Worse news follows when Pear tells Becca she intends to leave London, quit writing and retire to her new finance’s idyllic waterside home on the south coast. Becca is determined to prevent Pearl from making a disastrous mistake, but when she arrives at Rivermede, more shocks await when she stumbles upon a familiar yet unwelcome face from her past. As Pearl embraces her new life amongst the local sailing fraternity, Becca receives a grim warning that all is now as calm as it seems at picturesque Rivermede, and if she wants to keep her family safe, she should keep them away. But why should Becca trust the man who has betrayed her before, the man who broke her heart, the man who thinks he knows all her secrets?
You can buy Your Secret’s Safe With Me here.