I much prefer to write about a place I know. I couldn’t set a story in, for example, Norway because I’ve never been there. Okay, maybe I could read up about it but I simply wouldn’t have the ‘feel’ for the place or the local knowledge that would add authenticity to my story. Which is why two of my stories have been set in the Lake District which I know and love, and another story has been inspired by my recent visit to Egypt.
Inaccuracies in settings really bug me and I would hate to be (unwittingly) the cause of bugging someone who reads my work who actually knows the location I’m writing about. Don’t even get me started on Aaron Sorkin’s location/factual errors in ‘The West Wing’ series!
Even when I was writing fan fiction, I researched places. I even WENT to Galway City in Ireland to make sure I had it right! And when I visited a small Irish town, on which I’d based ‘my’ Irish town I was mentally doing some adjustments – okay, I’ll move the Post Office there and yes that’s the pub I want to use etc!
Actually I have more of a problem with the ‘work setting’ rather than the location. ‘His Leading Lady’ is based mainly in London’s West End – no problem, I know London well. But the theatre world? I used my own knowledge of rehearsals and the backstage atmosphere in the amateur theatre. I was therefore relieved (and delighted!) when I saw a programme on TV about someone who set himself a challenge to appear in a London musical, and the rehearsals and backstage scenes mirrored the amateur world.
I’ve travelled a lot, I’m familiar with many places in Europe, Middle East, America and Canada. But I am much less familiar with occupational settings. I wouldn’t have a clue about, for instance, advertising agencies, or banking, or an industrial plant, or even a large department store. My work experience has been mainly in the teaching world. For me, finding out about different work settings is more difficult than researching a location.