For any writer, planning where to set your novel is very important. There can be lots of different reasons why a place is chosen. But for me, it needs to be more than just a place that people exist in. The setting needs to complement the characters and bring the story to life in itself, not just be a backdrop to unrelated action.
In Bird, my debut novel, I knew early on that I had to set it in London. I love London. It’s my absolute favourite city. I used to live there myself and the impact that the city has on Beth (the main character) is based on my own experience. The story begins with Beth moving there from the Staffordshire village where she grew up; just as I did in real life. I knew how to write about the excitement of starting a brand new adventure. And I knew how to write about how city life can change you. London was a challenge for Beth, but it helped her to become who she wanted to be, and the city in itself is an important part of the story.
In The Birds (the sequel), it was necessary for the story that they leave London. For one particular scene I pondered for ages as to where I could set it. It needed to be out of Britain; that was important. Beth and Simon needed to be away from the action for a while. Then it came to me: I’d take them to Florence.
I loved the fact that it’s such a romantic city, but it’s the setting to a very dark turn of events. Would it have the power to help things or would the beauty of the city be lost on the characters? It was an interesting idea to me, and as I wrote it I let it play out quite naturally.
In Free as a Bird (the last book in the trilogy), despite the fact that London was still where most of the action took place, towards the end of the story I once again needed to take the characters away. In truth, it could have been anywhere, but when I considered Beth’s love of London, I decided it had to be another vibrant city if she was going to be convinced to leave the Capital. I took the action to Manchester and I very much enjoyed seeing how it affected Beth as she left the ‘magic’ of London behind.
In one of my more recent books, In the Blood, I chose to balance the action mainly between Birmingham and London. The main character, Penelope, lives in the West Midlands, but, just as it did for Beth, London becomes a city that Penelope connects with, and how she interacts with the Capital becomes an important part of the plot.
For anyone who reads my books, you’ll probably be able to tell that I love the city and I’m far from a country girl. I think there’s something so exciting about city life. With my books tending to be full of action, I like the opportunities that city adventures give me. And in the latest book I’m writing, things are no different. There will be plenty of action in London, but I’m also taking my characters further than ever before.
That’s one of the things I love about being a writer. You can journey the world, experience so many things, and not even leave your computer. I hope you’ll join my characters on their next adventure soon.