Today I have a post from Clare Chase (I reviewed her book earlier this month ;)
Settings for suspense
One of my favourite parts of planning a new novel is deciding what settings to use. Under this umbrella, I have fun considering where the story should take place geographically, in which season, and in what social context. The social context involves working out where my heroine will live and work.
With my debut novel, You Think You Know Me, one setting governed another, and each related to my chosen genre – mystery fiction, with suspense and romantic intrigue.
I decided I wanted to set my story in the arts world. It’s perfect for a mystery: you get paintings that exchange hands for millions, bitter rivalries between artists, and private buyers who are desperate to possess something unique. And it’s big business in the criminal world: proceeds from arts and antiques crime are second only to those from drugs in the UK.
So the main connections my heroine has are in the arts world. But I also wanted her to have friends outside work, who could lend some perspective, so I set her up in a shared town house.
This followed on from the social setting. I had to have most of my story taking place in a city where it would be natural to find fashionable art galleries, frequented by wealthy people. London was the obvious choice for me. I went to university there, and I still like to visit as often as possible. I love the buzz created by the hubbub and crowds; there’s always something going on, day and night.
But at the same time, London has its eerie side. There are so many people that it’s relatively easy to blend in with the crowds; handy for anyone who’s up to no good. And it’s hard to tell if you’re being followed when there are thirty people behind you, rather than just one, on a lonely country road.
Later on in the story, though, I wanted to isolate my heroine, away from her home territory. Anna travels up to the Lake District in her search for the truth. This location was perfect for the point in my story where danger closes in. Mobile phone coverage is very patchy, and that proved handy for my plot, though not in the way you might imagine… It’s also a part of the country that can put you at a disadvantage if you don’t know your way around. An enemy who’s familiar with the territory has a good chance of catching you up, however fast you negotiate the hairpin bends…
And then there’s the area’s lonely beauty. It’s a part of the country I love, but in the right sort of conditions, it can feel threatening. The weather can close in very quickly, and even though the vast slabs of rock disappear into the clouds, you still feel their presence. Meanwhile the lakes themselves, blue and benign on a calm summer’s day, take on a whole different feel when they turn steel grey in stormy weather.
You Think You Know Me starts on Halloween, and by the time my heroine travels north, it’s close to Christmas. Again, choosing autumn going into winter worked well for the story I wanted to tell. It meant the parties in London could be glittery affairs after dark, and it’s always creepier if you run into trouble after the sun’s gone down… It also heightened the tension once my heroine travels to the Lake District. The summer holiday season is long past, the Christmas one not yet begun, so the area’s relatively empty, with inclement weather, and dark, deserted roads.
And when my heroine comes out the other side, it’s nice to find Christmas is in sight; it’s a romantic time of year and she’s more than ready for a season of celebration. Those life and death adventures are exhausting…
Thanks so much for having me on your blog!
Thank you Clare!
1 e-copy of You think you know me
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