I was recently having a conversation with a few fellow authors about the importance of location in our novels, and specifically whether it was necessary, as a writer, to have visited the place you decide to set your story in. The verdict was fifty/fifty, some thought it was vital to travel, research and absorb the atmosphere of a setting before it became the backdrop of a plot, and others felt imagination along with some online research was sufficient.
I guess I can see both points of view. Having over fifty stories published, over half of these novels, I decided to tot up how many I’d set in places I’d actually visited. It worked out like this…
Stories set in places I’d lived in, visited frequently or holidayed in – 37
Stories set in places I’d never travelled to - 13
This was an interesting discovery and certainly something I hadn’t thought to work out before. I live in the UK and the majority of my stories are set here, many in London as it’s somewhere I lived for a while. London is also incredibly diverse for an author. I’ve used it to set wonderfully romantic scenes around beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve also used seedier back streets for dark liaisons, and the big hospitals for a couple of medical orientated novels (I used to be a trauma nurse). The eclectic mix of restaurants, wonderfully atmospheric old-world pubs and the gorgeous parks have also sneaked into the pages of my work.
I've even been involved in a UK exclusive boxed set - Brit Boys: On Boys, which is all British characters and British locations. My story The Chase is set in Cardiff, a city I know well.
The next most common place I’ve set my novels is the USA. No surprise as I’ve been visiting the US since I was a child, to spend time with family and to enjoy the big cities. New York has appeared in several books and like London can be used to create glamour and excitement and also dark danger, depending on the plot. Florida is a popular one for me, mainly because I have a series set here and holidayed in Orlando several times.
Then there is Las Vegas, which is the setting for my new M/M serial, Caught on Camera, just out at Totally Bound. I adored Las Vegas when I visited several years ago. The memory of the heat in particular stayed with me. It was such a dry, dessert heat like nothing I’d ever come across before, a detail which was great to add into my prose and I spent ages finding just the right descriptions for it. Also the fact the place never seemed to stop, I enjoyed using this fact from my memory, it meant the times could shift in my plot line, it didn’t matter if it was day or night, Las Vegas kept on buzzing. We stayed at The Luxor and I remember being fascinated by the ‘inclinators’ – because of the pyramid design of the building, the elevators run on a slant. That’s the kind of detail that’s fun to add into a story because if you hadn’t been there you wouldn’t know about it, also it makes the reader feel like they’ve been there, and maybe, if they’ve never visited but get the chance, they’ll remember that snippet of information from my book.
So what about places I’ve used that I’ve never travelled to? I’m thinking now I might make it a mission to go to these locations and see how well I did in my descriptions. I’ve got India, Finland, the Canadian Rockies, The Caribbean, Moscow and the wild forests of Northern Russia. Then there is Eastern Europe, South Dakota and Nepal. Wow, that would be some trip!
The internet is revolutionary for authors when it comes to finding information. When writing about South Dakota for my M/F biker book Burning Rubber I used a Google image search to get some inspiration for the landscape and the sky and the buildings. Scanning a range of photographs helped me create a picture in my head of where I wanted my Wild Angel bikers to be. I honestly can’t think what I’d do without all this global information at my fingertips, it would be easy to take it for granted but I’m constantly grateful. Gone are the days I used to have to go to the library or use my parents’ collection of Britannica Encyclopedias.
I’m talking about contemporary stories here, and of course authors of sci-fi, historical and fantasy have to draw on their imagination to greater degrees though I’d be interested to find out how much of real places they put into their stories, perhaps stealing an aspect from one place and adding it to a feature of another. Twisting, contorting and stacking locations together in their minds.
One thing is for sure, I’ll continue to enjoy setting my stories in cities and countries I’ve been to, and strive to visit more. It’s that richness of experience that continually adds to a writer’s library of locations, and I for one, always find that travelling is completely inspiring and I come back itching to write whatever new story I’ve dreamed up while away.
Thanks for reading.
5 part serial. Part One FREE from Totally Bound
LIGHTS. CAMERA. ACTION. The life of an international porn star might be glamorous, satisfying and well paid but it’s also hard work – very hard – in every sense of the word.
So it’s just as well Reece Carter is up for the job and has the sexiest co-star imaginable Cade Davenport. They’re the hot new stars of GP Productions latest blockbuster Slippery Slots set in Las Vegas and they can’t wait to get naked and get started.
With scripts to learn, wardrobe to contend with and a whole host of new experiences to look forward to Reece takes the bull by the horns and jumps on for the ride. What he doesn’t bargain on, though, is finding love alongside his fat pay cheque.
But is the feeling mutual? And what happens when a cowboy, a box of unusual props and a trip to a BDSM dungeon gets thrown into the scene?
Can Reece handle the heat? Is he really capable of performing before an audience? And will Cade be there when he needs him most?