A sense of place

Most of my novels are set in various places in the north.
The place is important to me and it is one of the first things I have to decide.
In my first romantic novel Set to music I used Blackpool and Harrogate as the locations. Blackpool is near to Preston and I used to go dancing there to the Tower Ballroom so that features in the book. It is about ballroom dancing and I remember when I talked to the publicity lady at Hodder she said it was such a pity that nobody was much interested in ballroom dancing. I can’t help but think that the book came out just a little too soon now that there is a resurgence of interest in ballroom dancing following the success of Strictly Come Dancing on television.
Harrogate was used because I needed a place that was a complete contrast to Blackpool and the elegant spa is certainly that.

On moving down to Devon I dared to set a story there – Eight Days at the New Grand – recently reissued as an e-book with the title ‘Countdown to Love’.
At the time there were a few doubts if my readers could cope with a change of scene but I do not underestimate my readers and I was sure they would although on the advice of my agent I did add a character from my familiar north to help with that. Since then I have set several of my novels in Devon.

I feel I know my readers – you have to if you are to write for them – and I like to set the scene for them on the first page. It is important that the reader settles into it, knows where she is so that she can start to bring the scene to life in her imagination. As a writer, never ever forget that the reader has an imagination too and it doesn’t take much for her to conjure up the image in her head but you have to give her something to work with.