Monday 8 October 2012

Guest Post - Living On An Island - A Sense of Place in your Novel

I'm delighted to welcome Phillipa Ashley over to the Plotting Shed to tell us about a sense of place in your novel.
A sense of place is very important in all my novels; I love creating a real, vivid world and the more authentic I can make it, the easier I find it to imagine and develop my characters.
This has never been truer than for my new release; Miranda’s Mount which is set on an island castle in Cornwall.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘island castle in Cornwall’ - she must mean St Michael’s Mount.
Well, yes and no. It’s true that that the Mount inspired my Mount. In fact I can remember the exact moment I go the idea for the book. I was travelling home on a long car journey from another of my favourite locations, The Lake District, and dozing off – not at the wheel, I’m pleased to say – when the premise just slipped into my head.
Perhaps I was already planning my next holiday...
I love St Michael’s Mount and I wanted to write a book set in a similar place. But I also wanted my island to be my own creation.
Very unusually, the characters, their back stories and conflicts burst onto my head all at once. In half an hour, I’d got my story and I remember saying to my husband and daughter: ‘I’m going to write this book and this is what it’s about, these are the characters and this is what has happened to them to make them the people they are.’
When I got home, I started writing and never stopped.
I think my inspiration came because I chose such a unique and evocative, almost magical location that really captured my imagination.
An island castle is cut off by the tides twice a day and that imposes limitations on your characters. Firstly, in the physical sense, because they can’t escape from the place whenever they want to, they are ruled by nature, and they live and work in close proximity – which is a dream scenario for a romance.
But more important, are the emotional and psychological limitations that the location imposes and that big question ‘why’.
Why would someone chose to live on a tiny island in a close knit community?? It wouldn’t suit everyone; the claustrophobia, the difficulty of hiding things and the lack of privacy.
So I asked why my heroine, Miranda, loved living under those restrictions – and then I gave her a hero, Jago, who was the opposite, a man who couldn’t wait to escape the place that should be his birthright.
The heroine’s job as property manager of the island and the hero’s role as owner threw up so many interesting and dramatic opportunities, that the book seemed to write itself all the way through. I really felt I could see, hear, smell and taste the island. The chance to live there, if only my head, for nine months was pure escapist fun.
But I ought to leave it to a real expert on island life to give her own perspective – over to you, Debs!

Thanks Phillipa.
Miranda's Mount is published as an E-book on October 4th by Piatkus Entice and is a sexy, funny contemporary romance set in Cornwall.
When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic…
With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect – some would say obsession – with other people’s histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she’s made St Merryn’s Mount one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn’t bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she’s forced to delve into painful memories she’d much rather keep hidden…

Here's Phillipa's Website. You can also follow her on Twitter: @PhillipaAshley


Teresa Ashby said...

This is definitely one I'm going to read! Sounds wonderful.
Personally I would love to live on an island :-) x

Unpublished Life said...

This is a great interview and it is so true about how creating a sense of place in a novel can give the reader an insight into the emotions and psychology of the characters who live there.

Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Teresa - it does sound great, doesn't it? I can't wait to read this book.

unpublished life - thanks. I agree with you about how a sense of place in a novel can give a reader an insight. So true.

galant said...

How lovely that the Mount inspired your Mount! About 12 years ago my husband and I were invited to lunch by the then Lord & Lady St Levan of St Michael's Mount. We didn't expect such a fine welcome, and they were delightful hosts, serving us themselves in their private dining room ( a delicious steak pie!) The reason for the invitation was that I was writing an article on the Mount and truly, I only expected to have a few minutes with Lord St Levan but he invited us both to lunch. He was then in his mid-80s but very fit and took us around the Castle at a very fast pace, up and down steps and stairs, along battlements and turrets. It was one of the most exhilerating experiences, one never to be forgotten! Whenever we see film shots of the Mount, as has happened regularly since on various TV progs, we look back with pleasure and say "Do you remember when we were there, in that lovely sitting room with Lord & Lady St Levan ..."
Margaret P

Phillipa said...

I did think I'd posted a reply to Teresa and Unpublished Life earlier but it has got lost in cyberspace so thank you for the comments!

Margaret - I am totally in awe and envious. Maybe I should have told them about the book - or maybe not because the various dynasties of fictional St Merryns get up to all sorts of naughty tricks: and the book is quite steamy at times. I saw the Martin Clunes programme where he haslunch with the St Levans and says to the Lady: when you saw this place you must have thought, 'I have SO pulled.'

galant said...

I've not seen the Martin Clunes prog where he has lunch with the St Levans - a pity I missed it. I expect we were there a shade longer than Mr Clunes, spending at least an hour before lunch chatting with Lord & Lady St Levan, having lunch, and then coffee in their sitting room, again chatting before leaving when the tide was out, walking back across the causeway. I didn't mention that he sent the DUKW over specially for us (the tide was then in) and when other visitors to the island attempted to get on board, the skipper of this landing craft said, "Sorry, these are Lord St Levan's guests ..." and they had to wait for the Drake (a younger and slightly smaller vehicle.) We were met on the beach by the Landrover which took us right up to the castle. There we entered by a side door and at once were taken by lift directly up to the private apartment of Lord & Lady St Levan. Yes, it was quite a day!
Margaret P

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

galant - what an incredible day you both had at the Mount! So memorable.

Flowerpot said...

I shall be in Penzance next week! Very much look forward to reading it....

Phillipa said...

Thanks Flowerpot - have a great time and I hope you enjoy the book.

Jennifer Joyce said...

I love reading a book where the author clearly has a connection with the location. The decriptions are usually so vivid, it feels like you're walking in the characters' footsteps.

Unknown said...

Mama j - I agree. It makes all the difference to the story if the setting is clear and easy to envisage.