I’ve sometimes said that setting your stories in places you know is much easier than in places you don’t. In most of my novels, I’ve used places I know well – London, Scotland, the Lake District, and Paris. I’ve also had scenes in places I’ve visited like New York and Los Angeles, and I've had a couple of imaginary places that could have been any Yorkshire town or any south east England seaside resort.
The only exception was Iceland in ‘Changing the Future’. For
that I had to rely on photographs and Google Earth. Ever since I wrote the
book, I’ve wanted to visit Iceland, but it could prove a little frustrating as
I’m sure I want to rewrite the whole of the Iceland chapters in my novel once
I’d seen the real thing!
My current WIP is set in Ireland. I’ve been over to Ireland
about nine times in the past six years. Some parts I know better than others,
having visited them several times, and my story is set in those places i.e. Dublin
and Connemara. I have masses of my own photos to remind me, but I’ve also been
amazed at how much I’ve had to check or research even about places I know.
These have included: how to get from one place to another in Dublin when walking (we
tended to use the tourist bus in Dublin); where to park a car in central Dublin
(we always take the DART train into the city); and where a lawyer’s office
might be. I looked up Dublin lawyers, and found one at St. Stephen’s Green in
the city centre so decided to use that, and was relieved when my Irish
beta-reader commented it was the perfect place for a lawyer’s office!
had to check how long it actually takes to drive from Dublin to Galway, although
I’ve done that journey (and back) three times. That’s the kind of thing you
don’t take note of when you’re visiting a place – at least, not unless you know
in advance that you’re going to set a novel there.
I’ve also driven about four times from Galway City to
Clifden, but I still had to use Google Earth and street view to remind myself
of the road, and what you can see during different parts of the journey through
Street view was so useful too when I wanted my characters to
stop for petrol and also to visit a supermarket. I set street view on the
approach to Clifden, and looked out for a garage (gas station). Imagine my
satisfaction when I discovered there was a supermarket right next to the garage!
Only a minor detail, I know, but it’s always good to be accurate. Then I routed
street view through the centre of the small town, and out towards Clifden Bay
and the Atlantic, and eventually found the right site for the house they were
Soon my characters are going to be visiting someone in
Dalkey, a small town a few miles south of Dublin. Now I know Dalkey like the
back of my hand – or I think I do! What’s the betting, though, that I’ll have
to dig out my photos (and use street view again) to check my memory of the
Or maybe I simply need another trip to Ireland before I
submit this novel – just to double-check all the places I’ve used? Well, that
sounds like a good excuse anyway!