posted by Anna Campbell
Australia is a very new country, even newer than the United States or Canada. If you’re talking architecture, 100 years is old to us. I live in a 1928 Art Deco block of flats and that is considered heritage.
So what is a girl to do when she’s been in love with the past, the more distant the better, ever since she was a little kid reading fairytales?
A girl is to go to Britain as often as she possibly can! Even though the flight is awful and the exchange rate between the pound and the Aussie dollar is worse. When I need my history fix, I need my history fix! I’ll endure any pains, slog through any cold English rain, chat up any gorgeous Scotsmen (hmm, that’s REALLY suffering) just so I can see something built prior to 1900! I will suffer for my art!
As I write this, I’ve got a couple of days to wait before I board my big red and white Qantas jet and head off for London for a week followed by three weeks of wandering around England and Scotland. Am I excited? Did the Saxons cop a hiding at the Battle of Hastings?
I’m planning to scout locations and do a lot of research. I’m hoping to come up with a string of ideas for new stories. Experiencing the places where my characters live is so inspiring. Of course, I’m writing romance not a dissertation on the Highland Clearances or the position of women in Regency England. As a writer, I try to subscribe to the iceberg theory—at least 90% of what you know is floating underwater out of sight. Knowing the setting so well is for my benefit, really. I have to believe in the authenticity of the people and their world (although I’m sure I make mistakes—it’s almost impossible not to! And it’s always the little things that slip you up!) when I’m telling a story.
In Claiming the Courtesan, I use a lot of historical detail—hopefully with a light hand. But in my mind, it made those people flesh and blood as individuals of their time and setting.
To give you some examples, the Duchess of Kylemore’s cruel eviction of her tenants was based on the deliberate depopulation of the Highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries as the Scottish nobility decided they’d rather live the easy life in London. The easy life was expensive and wool was the boom industry so the landowners threw people off their crofts in preference for running sheep which were cheap and profitable. The castle and village at Inverathie are based loosely on Inveraray, the home of the Dukes of Argyll, in western Scotland. Just as a small detail, when you walk into the main hall, the walls are decorated with weaponry just as they are in my book. Here’s a link if you want to check out the similarities.
So now over to you. Have you ever been somewhere and found it inspired a whole new story? How important is setting in your writing? When you read a book, is the sense of place/history important to you? Is there somewhere you absolutely, positively have to visit for your current work in progress? Has a book ever inspired you to want to visit somewhere through the sheer power of the descriptions?