It is a thrill to welcome bestselling novelist, Rosie Travers to the blog today to explain how she uses setting in her novels. Thank you for your time today, Rosie. Over to you.
Thank you for inviting me, Val. It is lovely to be able to share my love of writing in particular settings with your readers. I write for the commercial women’s fiction market and freely admit to being a total pantser. I don’t plot, I sit down, start typing and see where a story takes me. To that end, all of the books I’ve published to date have been set in places I know very well – ie within a ten miles radius of my doorstep. This doesn’t necessarily mean no research into the location is required, but it does enable to me to write at full-speed ahead and worry about the finer details later.
I live in Hampshire on the south coast of England. My first two books were set on the mainland shores of the Solent, the later three, my Eliza Kane Investigates series, on the Isle of Wight.
As a reader I enjoy books set in places I already know - or can visit at a later date. I want to follow in a character’s footsteps, and I want my readers to be able to do the same with my novels.
Therefore, even though I may create fictional micro-locations to slot my stories into, I also mention genuine landmarks, villages and towns. For example, my first novel The Theatre of Dreams is set in the fictional location of Hookes Bay, described as an old-fashioned run-down resort with a shingle beach midway between Portsmouth and Southampton. I refer to a former navy base, a nearby nature reserve. If you know this area well, you’ll realise Hookes Bay closely resembles the town of Lee-on-the-Solent – but it’s not a carbon copy. Lee-on-the-Solent doesn’t have a dilapidated seaside pavilion in need of restoration (although it once had a fabulous art-deco entertainment complex which was subsequently demolished back in the 1970s – the original inspiration for the story!)
Likewise on the Isle of Wight, my first Eliza Kane mystery is set in the wonderful Victorian shabby-chic seaside town of Ventnor. Sites such as the rotunda bandstand on the esplanade, the yacht haven, the botanical gardens, all mentioned in the novel are real, but Clifftops Hotel and its golf course, where most of the action takes place, is purely a figment of my imagination. If you ever visit the island you can follow the coastal path from Ventnor to Wheelers Bay where pro-golfer turned amateur sleuth Eliza has an encounter with sexy scuba diver Charlie. You can also wander through the nature reserve at Newtown Creek and see for yourself exactly how easy it is to become stranded on the mudflats by the outgoing tide – a significant part of the plot in book number three Trouble on the Tide (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler!)
My current WIP is set in the New Forest – another area of Hampshire I know well. However, this novel will take readers back to World War II, when the much of the Forest was commandeered by the armed forces who used the thick cover of the Forest for military training camps and the flat heathland areas for hastily constructed aerodromes. It would have looked very different to the tranquil landscape I know today. I’m having to do a lot more research for this particular novel from the historical point of view, but when it comes to working out how long it would have taken my heroine to reach her home from her place of work, I can still count out the exact number of paces!
Setting my novels in locations I’m familiar with helps to bring authenticity into my writing. I can describe about the landscape with confidence, and I also hope it might inspire readers to visit this beautiful part of the English coastline for themselves.
Rosie Travers grew up in Southampton on the south coast of England and loved escaping into a good book at a very early age. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. She moved to Southern California in 2009 and with time on her hands, she started a blog about the perils of ex-pat life which rekindled a teenage desire to become an author. Now permanently settled back in the UK, Rosie takes inspiration from the landscape of her native south coast for her writing, sprinkling her stories with quirky characters, feisty heroines and a large dose of humour.
Rosie’s latest novel, Trouble on the Tide, was published in July 2023 and is the third instalment in a series of humorous cosy mysteries featuring pro-golfer turned amateur sleuth Eliza Kane.
Trouble on the Tide: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0C6BZNJ7Z
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosie-Travers/e/B07CVZ2CQ5/