Monday, 5 September 2016

Guest Post: How your setting can change your story by Tracey Sinclair

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Tracey Sinclair back to the blog with a guest post about how different locations can change your story.

My writing has always been heavily influenced by where I live. My first novel, Doll, was set in Sheffield, a city I lived in briefly (and, it has to be said, mostly unhappily) for six months – so the book was informed by the sense of a place I didn’t feel I belonged. Years living in Glasgow are evident in my short stories, and the fact that many of my characters share a Scottish connection – in the Dark Dates series, both Medea and her fiancée Katie are Scottish, and it has a big influence on their characters.

Sometimes, I’ll choose a location specifically because it changes the nature of the story itself. So many chick-lit novels take place in glossy locations like London, New York and Paris that when I came to write Bridesmaid Blues, I deliberately set it in Newcastle – making my heroine a down to earth Geordie who (spoiler alert) doesn’t end up doing some insanely glamorous job meant I could play with the tropes of the genre a little, as well as making the protagonist more – I hope – relatable.

The Dark Dates series, in contrast, was completely inspired by my locale. When I started writing the first book, I was working around Smithfield in London, an area soaked in history and blood – they used to burn martyrs near the market, and not long after I left, the Crossrail renovations unearthed the remains of a massive plague pit. Perfect inspiration for a supernatural series!

But one of the most fun and unexpected things I’ve found is how much changing the location can affect the tone of the story itself. All of the Dark Dates novels so far are set in London – but in expanding the Dark Dates universe through short stories and novellas, I’ve been able to take the gang on tour, so to speak. A Vampire in Edinburgh sees unlikely allies (the hunter Cain and the vampire Laclos) dealing not only with a murder, but with the chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe (something which, as a theatre reviewer, I’m very familiar with!) – so gave me a lot of opportunities to poke fun at some of the excesses of the Festival. 

A Vampire in New York is a standalone story featuring Laclos and is based on a real life speakeasy bar I visited on a trip to the city, and is written from the point of view of a native New Yorker – giving a different lens through which to view familiar characters. Oher short stories have seen Cain in the Lake District (cue lots of jokes about sheep and Kendal Mint Cake) and the Dark Dates girls hitting my current hometown, Brighton, for a night out that ends up being more than they bargained for. Each time the characters are taken out of their usual context it gives me a chance to look at them afresh and reveal something new about them – as well as write about places that I know well and love (expect lots of local in-jokes…)

Now I just need to plan a holiday somewhere exciting and pretend that it’s research. Dark Dates goes to Hawaii, anyone?

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