Tag Archives: Lincolnshire

Where Do I Set My Story?

25 Apr

“There is no happiness in love, except at the endof an English novel.” (Anthony Trollope in Barchester Towers)

The passage through Dover Castle at the right just can’t help sparking my imagination.

How Does an Author Choose a Setting

Why did I set The Gate House in England?

The simple answer to that question is — because that’s where the story is. But obviously there is more to it than that.

Setting is one of the crucial elements of fiction, but it is not arbitrary. A writer cannot pick up the plot and characters of a story from one location and drop them down unchanged in another. Even though the characters are what make readers care and keep turning the page, setting shapes the characters as much as the other influences in their lives.

I think my fascination with setting comes from my love of travel. I often “see stories” when I visit a location away from home. Different locations evoke ideas of different kinds of emotions and plot ideas. Washington, DC, where I spent a recent week-end, is a setting full of enormous political power and history. A story set there must somehow touch on those elements. A trip to Lincolnshire, England, where my husband’s family originated, inspired The Gate House, when we spent an unplanned couple of nights in a bed and breakfast of that name. This setting called me to create a story of mystery and the layers of history that are so present in England.

Setting can almost be considered another character, as the time and place of the story interact with the other elements. Literary themes and human emotions may not change over time, but how the pieces fall together can create unique and compelling stories.

Do you every choose a novel based on the setting? Are there certain setting you prefer?

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Back to Lincolnshire

11 Feb

Since my novel The Gate House is due out in May, I am thinking about the trip to England that inspired the novel. My husband and I stayed in a bed in breakfast in the market town of Spalding in Lincolnshire. We traveled to that part of England because his ancestors had come from their in the 1800s. The bed and breakfast where we stayed was, in fact, an old railroad gate house. In the early days of railroads, a gatekeeper would live in a cottage next to the crossing, and go out to raise and lower the gate as required when people needed to cross the track.

The building where we stayed had been added to and renovated over the years until it became the family home with two or three extra bedrooms upstairs for guests. Our host prepared a delicious full Scottish breakfast for us, and even took us out in his car to a nearby town to visit the church where my husband’s great-great-grandparents were married.

While he was learning about his family history, I was imagining the story that became The Gate House. After all, an old house like that must have a hidden staircase, a secret room or maybe even a ghost.

Check out the “real” Gate House, and maybe book a room on your next trip to England.

A full Scottish breakfast. That black lump is black pudding, a type of sausage made from pork blood and oatmeal.