Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I is for Iceland and Ireland

Paula contrasts two different locations in her novels.

In ‘Changing the Future’, my hero visits Iceland. He’s a volcano expert and one of Iceland’s volcanoes is heating up. Yes, I had to do a lot of general research about volcanoes for this story, but I also had to research Iceland, because I’ve never been there. From basic information such as the name of Iceland’s main airport (Keflavik) and the distance from there to Reykjavik, to more detailed facts about the roads and off-road terrain in Iceland, the scenery, and the geographical location of Iceland’s volcanoes. I studied maps and hundreds of photos and videos. Google Earth was good too, and Streetview, of course.

In the end, I think (hope!) I gave a fairly accurate portrayal of Iceland in my novel. At least no one has told me (yet!) I’ve made any howling errors, but I did keep my descriptions fairly brief, just in case! It’s also worth noting that no reviewer actually made any comments at all about my descriptions of Iceland.

In contrast, when I was writing about Ireland in ‘Irish Inheritance’ and ‘Irish Intrigue’ (and also in my current WIP ‘Irish Secrets’, I was able to draw on my own experiences and memories, as well as my own photographs. Not that I wrote any lengthy descriptions – a paragraph at most every so often.

Here’s one from ‘Irish Inheritance’: After the gentle green fields of central Ireland, they were now driving through the wild open countryside of Connemara, uninhabited apart from sheep and lambs. New vistas appeared at every twist and turn of the road: clusters of bright yellow broom, small brooks rippling over stones, breeze-whipped lakes at one side of the road, low green hills with rocky outcrops on the other, and the occasional ruins of stone cottages. A range of sharp peaked, green-grey mountains dominated the view ahead of them.

And here’s one from ‘Irish Intrigue’: Her gaze travelled across the wide expanse of rippling grey-blue water below them and the low hills surrounding the lough. Their slopes were dappled grey and pale green by the autumn sun, which had started to filter through the clouds, and in the distance, the rugged grey peaks of the Twelve Bens provided the perfect backdrop to the scene.

Many of my reviewers commented about how much they enjoyed my descriptions of Ireland, and perhaps my most treasured comment was from a Galway-born man (now living in America) who wrote: Paula’s evocative descriptions of Ireland’s countryside linger even once the story is finished.

This maybe explains why I prefer to set my stories in places I’ve visited. First-hand experience works far better for me than looking at photos or watching videos. I admire authors who can write about places they’ve not visited, but I was (and am) far more comfortable writing about Ireland than I was about Iceland.

12 comments:

  1. The reader really feels like they have visited Ireland after reading your books.
    Carol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Carol :-) One reviewer actually said she made a special trip to Connemara and Clifden when she was in Ireland last summer, just to see the places I'd written about in Irish Inheritance!

      Delete
  2. Setting is a "character" in our stories. Having one's facts correct is important. Conveying the "flavor" of a place is harder, and you did that spectacularly, IMO.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ana. You have echoed what my Galway-born reviewer said: Paula's descriptions of Ireland make the country a character in its own right.

      Delete
  3. I never cease to admire your attention to detail, Paula. It's the work of a good writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Margaret! I enjoy researching the details :-)

      Delete
  4. You probably get tired of me saying it, but I love traveling vicariously through your books, Paula.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you enjoy my settings, Debra :-)

      Delete
  5. It's always difficult to portray places you haven't been (sometimes, even places you have). But I love the way you describe settings in your books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to hate doing 'description' essays at school, which is probably why I keep my descriptions short in my books, but at least I can give a flavour of places now when I can describe what I have seen.

      Delete
  6. I'm with you, I think writing about places you've never been could be quite dangerous, one slip and you've destroyed your credibility. Its so much easier when you already love an area you're describing as you obviously do with Ireland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree about destroying your credibility, Anne. I'm always fearful of getting something wrong when writing about places I don't know, so I tend to stick to places I do know!

      Delete