I particularly love my cover – not just because the very-talented illustrator Robyn Neild has totally “got” all four of the characters and they are just as I imagined, but for the little glimpse of Bleak House (where Charles Dickens wrote part of David Copperfield, don’t you know?) through the window behind them.
It is always a joy to set a book in my hometown. Some novels take longer to write than others whatever you do, but I discovered some years ago that you can save a great deal of time if you set the action in a place you know.
In the early days I made up my locations – and soon found that you can spend an inordinate number of hours working out how long it might take a heroine to walk to the station or drive to London, and what direction the shops are in, while making sure this fits in with where the doctor’s surgery is, since you’ve already declared that’s opposite Tesco. Then you have to remember it all!
If your backdrop, on the other hand, is an area you know intimately, then geography (never a strong point!) and logistics become easy.
The Big Five O is the story of four women who are all about to be – surprisingly enough – fifty years old. They live in the seaside town of Broadstairs and I had great fun with real place names and some real people too!
The joint party the four are planning is to be held in the Pavilion, Broadstairs – where I have attended many a fine event – and the manager Dan, of course, gets a name check. Roz works at Turner Contemporary in Margate and goes for a drink in The 39 Steps – a bar I go to for the odd gin; Fay runs her removal business from Pysons Road Industrial Estate and likes a drink in The White Swan in Reading Street, a pub which is my absolute favourite. Charlotte sells high-end properties on the North Foreland Estate, our local posh bit, and Sherie has beauty treatments in Bodilight where I get my nails done.
All four have something to be secretive about, but whether I was plotting the route for the car chase, picking a venue for the mysterious meet-up, or choosing a restaurant where the first spark of passion could ignite across the pasta (it had to be the fab Italian, Posillipo, on the seafront!), I simply had to visualise all that my lovely corner of Kent has to offer.
When it comes to characters however, things are a bit different. Do you base them on people you know? is a favourite question for writers, and my answer is quite often: Yes!
But aside from the walk-on parts for those playing themselves, I always mix up the details and blur the edges (I know my laws on libel, thank you) and use my friends and acquaintances as a source of inspiration rather than a blueprint. (While giving my enemies halitosis and a vinyl fetish.) 🙂
I expect readers who live in Thanet to hazard the odd guess as to who has triggered my imagination this time, but if past experience is anything to go by, then I’d wager that anyone who IS in it, won’t recognise themselves, while names thrown into the hat will be the last ones I had in mind. That’s my story anyway M’lud, and I’ll be sticking to it…