I’m chuffed to welcome back Scottish author Jennifer Young today. Jennifer is a fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and she came to my blog last year (you can read her interview here). We’ve met several times in real life through the RNA, and I’m looking forward to meeting Jennifer even more often when she moves to join us Sassenachs south of the border :)
Jennifer lives in beautiful Edinburgh – the setting for my new release, The Scottish Diamond – and so I’m intrigued to hear which places in the world Jennifer has chosen for the settings for her own novels, and why.
Thanks for coming back, Jennifer!
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Location, Location, Location…
I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s the fact that I studied, and loved studying, geography. Maybe it’s the fact that I love travel. I don’t know, but whatever it is, it seems that whenever I go somewhere new I end up with a new plot. Even my collection of notebooks that I carry round with me usually have some kind of a map on the front and if I ever find a notebook with a picture of the place I’m writing about, I’m in heaven.
I don’t always finish them. Come on, I don’t even work most of them up into what might pass for a plot. But the ideas are still there, bubbling up under the inspiration of a new view, a new angle, a new place.
Of course, some places are more interesting than others. There may well be a steamy romantic novel or two set in the dark and mysterious heart of Hull, or for that matter Wolverhampton or Milton Keynes. If they exist, I haven’t come across them. On the other hand there are many, many books written about exotic locations.
Cities. New York. Paris. London. (My own favourite city, Edinburgh, is the setting of many a wonderful story.) My publisher runs a series of novellas on the theme of “One night in…” where the focus is on a single night in a single city. That has some crackers. Salamanca. Chicago. Rome. Los Angeles. And so on.
Then there are the more exotic places, the holiday destinations (preferably warm). These are fertile ground on which the seeds of my own ideas come up the most readily. And why not? Exotic, out of character, new experiences and different people — all combine for a recipe for romance. My first two were set in Majorca, and now I’m in the middle of a series set in Lake Garda.
Place. You hear a lot about that. A sense of place. And actually, from Wuthering Heights via Rebecca to any other work you can name, I can’t think of a good romantic novel that hasn’t evoked the place in which it’s set.
A wise writer friend once advised me that the reader should be able to place a hand upon the wall of the place they’re reading about. Since then, that’s what I’ve aspired to do. Some of my characters even do just that, a reminder to me as well as to them that the place is as crucial to the background of a novel — especially, I would argue, a romantic novel — as the characters.
You may not agree. You may insist that character over-rides all and location doesn’t matter. I would argue that the two are interconnected and you can’t have one without another. Which is why, in my book, a great romantic novel (as opposed to a great love story, of course) has to have a great setting. And it’s why I’ve never set a book in Hull.
What a great post, Jennifer. I love that saying about being able to set your hand on the wall of a setting. And you’re right, One Night in Hull doesn’t quite have that romantic ring to it – although Hull is actually a really interesting place, with lots of history! Interesting why some locations are seen as so exotic, and others aren’t. Thanks very much for dropping in again!
What’s your favourite romantic setting, or your favourite setting in any novel? If you’re a writer, how important is setting to you? If you’ve enjoyed Jennifer’s post, or if you have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!