Location, Location, Location

Disused mill, Southwold

Sometimes, no matter how much you’d like to render faithfully a real-life location in your story, some plot gremlin might instead force you to decide that it’s not a good idea. This happened to me during the writing of Loss of Separation . Initially, the novel was to be set in Southwold, Suffolk. It still is, and people who know the village will recognise the place, but I’ve changed its name to Southwick. The reasons for this are twofold. First, the residents of Southwold, unlikely as they are to see a copy of LoS, let alone buy one, might not take kindly to my describing their home as a place where ‘people come to die’. Second, I don’t want the tourist board to start haranguing me because potential visitiors have been put off by the child deaths and rape. Third, I wanted to write a scene in a cave. There are no caves in Southwold. But in Southwick there’s a doozy called Bryning’s Pit.

Of course, as a writer – and as a writer of fantastic fiction – I possess a special licence to write what I like about wherever I like. In London Revenant, for example, an earthquake destroys the city and a bunch of people spend time trying to find hidden parts of the capital, insane hotspots that don’t exist on the A-Z. I didn’t worry too much about offending the stout occupants of the metropolis. If you’ve seen off the Luftwaffe and pooh-poohed the terrorists, a horror writer putting a crack through your back garden isn’t going to cause any problems. But for authenticity’s sake, there needs to be some consistency.

I think, as long as you treat the venue for your story with the same care as you would a character (and in the best stories, the location can sometimes be so strongly depicted that it becomes another character), readers don’t mind – maybe don’t even know – that your village or town or city is a complete fabrication.

Listened to: Moon, OST

Between books

I rewrote Loss of Separation, altering certain things that just didn’t chime well with me at all once I’d turned in a first draft. One character became more important, another won herself a new chapter. Other stuff, minor stuff. I handed in that revised draft on January 5th. I’m expecting proofs back from Solaris today. A quick read through and the book will go into production. Copies hit the shops in March. There’s quick for you. Now comes a recharging period. I have a couple of short stories to complete this month and then I’m going to have a break. But at some point soon I want to start work on a new novel.

I have ideas for lots of projects, but nailing which one is right to do next is the trick. I have a sequel to Blonde on a Stick that I’d like to get started on, and a new horror novel connected to previous stories The Owl and Rain. I also have a book in me about growing up in Warrington in the 1970s under the shadow of a serial killer. I’d like to write a short, weird YA novel. I’d like to write a biiiig, weird YA novel. There are other ideas, sketchy, unformed, but compelling, to me at least. I have titles for them all. Some of them will be pseudonymous (no… I’m not telling you). They’ll have their day.

It’s my intention to try to update this blog a little more regularly than usual. So please do drop if you have a moment. Thanks for your continuing support. And best wishes for 2011.