In January 2016 I was invited onto writer Lynn Shelby’s blog to talk about the importance of sense of place. My books are set in the West Country in villages and provincial towns – some real, some fictional. With such close knit communities being involved it’s very important to get the location right before I bring my characters to ‘live’ there.
When I chatted with Lynn I had just published Summer Moved On the first of my two linked novels set in South Devon. South Hams, or to be precise the area where Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Salcombe and Totnes are situated, is a regular holiday destination. Over the years I’ve become familiar with the various places – towns, villages, countryside, and of course the river. This made it easy to visualise places and set scenes. Last October the second book Watercolours in the Rain brought my stay in Devon to a conclusion. So where did I plan to set the next book?
I guess it was natural to move on to Cornwall. North Cornwall in particular had been the place where we’d enjoyed family camping holidays when I was young. It meant I’d become quite used to the unpredictable nature of the weather – waking up one day to brilliant sunshine, the next to rain or even sea fog. However if the weather was bad on the north coast, it was relatively easy to simply get in the car and drive to somewhere like Fowey, Looe or Mevagissey on the south coast where the sun would almost certainly be shining.
There was also another huge factor influencing my choice of location – Poldark. How could you not fall in love with the coastline after watching Aidan Turner riding across the cliffs each week in a hurry to be somewhere? The cinematography for the series has been amazing, with sparkling blue seas and the surge of white edged waves against the cliffs. No doubt since the series began it has been influential in luring even more tourists to the county of Cornwall.
So with my cast and location sorted, next I needed to decide where to set my characters. Well this time I wanted to create a fishing port, one which also attracted tourists during the summer months. Somewhere similar to Mevagissey (below) was exactly the kind of place I had in mind.
Central to the story was a hotel. This I set on cliffs overlooking the harbour. After working through a series of ideas for a name I eventually settled on the Tarwin House Hotel. The clifftop inspiration came from the The Headland Hotel and Spa which overlooks Fistral Beach in Newquay (pictured below).
However, although the setting was just right, the building wasn’t. For that I had to go back to Richmond upon Thames, where we’d spent some time earlier in the year. The Petersham Hotel (pictured below), near to where we stayed, ticked all the boxes and became my muse for Tarwin House.
Everything was now in place for the writing to begin and nearly a year later, the project is almost complete. It’s been an interesting journey this time around, with lots of stops and starts. Having said that, I have been away a lot in 2017 – a situation which has, at times, proved quite disruptive to the writing process. With The Boys of Summer almost complete, I’m already turning my attention to the next book. This time I’m heading across the Cornish peninsular to the south coast. At the moment the characters are still in the melting pot and the story is only a very rough outline. So it’s very much a case of watch this space!
Coastal shot courtesy of Annie Spratt on Unsplash