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Location, Location with Stevie Carroll

Today's guest is fellow author Stevie Carroll, who takes us on a delightful - and pictorial! - tour of the UK locations she's fond of, and used in her fiction.


Location, Location, Location

Today's guest, Stevie Carroll, was born in England's Steel City, and raised in a village on the boundary of the White and Dark Peaks, Stevie Carroll was nourished by a diet of drama and science fiction from the BBC and ITV, and a diverse range of books, most notably Diane Wynne-Jones and The Women's Press, from the only library in the valley. After this came a university education in Scotland, while writing mostly non-fiction for various underground bisexual publications under various aliases, before creativity was stifled by a decade of day-jobs.
Now based in Hampshire, Stevie has rediscovered the joys of writing fiction, managing to combine thoughts of science fiction, fantasy and mysteries with a day-job in the pharmaceuticals industry and far too many voluntary posts working with young people, with animals and in local politics. Stevie's short story, The Monitors, in Noble Romance's Echoes of Possibilities, was longlisted by the 2010 Tiptree Awards jury, and in 2011 Stevie had two short stories published in each of the UK Meet anthologies British Flash and Tea and Crumpet. Stevie has an LJ for writing updates, and really needs to get a website.


Locations in stories... how important are they? Some would have us believe that a certain type of reader wants stories set the US, especially in a generic small town or in one of a very few major cities. On the other hand, I tend to avoid those stories unless the plot and characters really grab me, but will read stories set in more unusual places even when the plot and characters sound less enticing. All the stories I wrote this year were set in places I've visited and fallen in love with, although I took liberties or combined more than one place into my fictional background (my two stories about Ash and Colin, one of which was in British Flash take place in an Essex town that owes a lot to Colchester, but also a little to Chelmsford).

This picture was taken at an open-air museum in Sussex, but I imagine the pair walked under very similar buildings in their other story, which should be out next year (British towns have many streets that really didn't anticipate the size of modern vehicles):

One of my stories in Tea and Crumpet, 'What Katy Did on Holiday', was set very firmly in the 'Book Town' of Hay-on-Wye. This eccentric place is just over the border in England rather than Wales, and has many, many bookshops as well as its famous literary festival. It also has a castle, although not nearly so impressive a one as Portchester Castle, which I used in a story I'm currently preparing for submission:

Heading north, I have three linked stories, two of which are set in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge. Once famous for its mills, the town is now a tourist attraction and home to a thriving community of writers, artists and lesbians (the latter two groups featuring heavily in my story). The town is built on two sides of a steep valley, and many of the houses are of a design not seen elsewhere because of this (one house on top of the other with 'front doors' at opposite sides and different levels of the building):

Millworkers' cottages of a more usual design play a minor role in my ghost story, 'The Footballer's Mistress', coming out next year. That one's really about the mill itself, though. Like this one, the mill is now converted into flats and houses:

Next year, I really do want to go back to writing longer stories. I have a novel I want to revise, all about a Derbyshire stately home and estate. Derbyshire has a lot of stately homes, the most famous being Chatsworth. Of course the one I'm writing about is nowhere near as grand as this (ignore the scaffolding on the left, they'd only just finished the internal decoration when I visited that time):

My fictional house will however have kitchens like this (actually Petworth House where the delightful Andrew Graham-Dixon did his 'Big Spring Clean'):

And it will have a kitchen garden like this (part of the kitchen gardens at Walmer Castle in Kent, which are on a grander scale than most):

I also want to write a story in which one of my main characters rents a house that's only slightly less higgledy-piggledy than this one (Little Moreton Hall in Derbyshire):So there we have it: a quick dash round some of the locations behind my stories. Which do you like best, real places or totally made-up locations? And do you prefer the familiar or the foreign?

Happy Birthday, Clare! And thank you for letting me ramble here!



From Clare: Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Fancy writing something for the visitors this month? It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.
I'm holding a FREE FICTION DAY on the 28th, so send me new fiction - links to your existing work also welcome! - to clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll post it all then :).


FOLLOW the Birthday Blog so far:
Jan 01: luscious_words shares some fabulous icons.
Jan 02: Jordan Castillo Price shares her experience of re-releasing books.
Jan 03: Mara Ismine wonders how important is continuity in fiction?
Jan 04: Jen shares her favourite Rom Com movies.
Jan 05: Karenna Colcroft introduces her unusual werewolf.

Check up on:
Prior years fun HERE and
The 2012 Guest schedule HERE.

Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space ♥

NOTE: most pictures chosen by me and credited where known, others may be used without direct permission, please contact me with any queries/concerns.



( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2012 11:09 am (UTC)
Thanks for hosting me! I hope your birthday month is going smashingly.
Helen Pattskyn
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
Real vs. Imaginary locations
I definitely prefer real locations. In this day and age, with the Internet at our fingertips, it's so easy to research other cities... of course I think the best stories are written by people who have actually been there, because nothing beats an author's actual experiences, but it's not that difficult to research a city on the other side of the globe. Reading about "exotic" locations makes a book just one more escape from every day life.

Gorgeous pictures, too. Thank you for sharing :)

Jan. 7th, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
Glad you like the pictures.

Thanks for commenting.
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
I love Hebden Bridge! I have a friend who lives near there are we often go when I visit with her. She's a member of the WI in Hebden which as you can imagine is not your typical WI!

I much prefer my stories with a regonisable setting. I know it can be a bit of a landline for authors who fear making a mistake such as getting the name of a street wrong, but it makes a story more complete for me.
Jan. 6th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
I think I need to be brave and give more names out in my stories, although sometimes using fictional villages close to real towns is a sneaky compromise.

Hamleys have had a store reorganisation since I went on a research trip in November. Fortunately I haven't started the story yet, and I'm back in London on Tuesday with enough time to rush back over and see what they've done. It has to be Hamleys in that story too, not just any old toy shop.
Jan. 6th, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
I really love books set somewhere other than a generic city, although sometimes that works, it really depends on the type of story. If it's set entirely in a kitchen, *ahemClare* it really doesn't matter if they are in London, or Madrid or New York. But if they are out and about, and you are describing their daily life and places they go, I love to know the details if possible.

I tend to write places I know (mostly I'm still exploring my own city but that will likely get boring), or places I've been because it's simplier easier for me. Although I have googled "Golden Griddles in Calgary" just in case someone said "There's no Golden Griddle in Calgary. You said they ate there." Okay, it's now a generic diner. LOL

Writing locations for me is a bit like going back for a visit, and reading new locations is a bit like sharing vacation memories from a friend. Books have made me want to visit places most certainly.
Jan. 6th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
I can tell you exactly where my fictional stately home ought to be, but there's actually an almighty reservoir on top of the entire estate. The characters spend a lot of time going to real places, though, and refer to other real places that I've used as basis for the completely made-up bits.

Likewise my East Anglian story is half and half real and made-up, because a couple of plot points might not have been feasible if I'd used the exact churches I have photos of, rather than made-up ones a couple of miles away.
Jan. 6th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
I'm so easy to please. :) If I like the storyline and characters I don't care where the story is set. I do enjoy reading stories set outside the US simply for the variety.
Jan. 6th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Variety is definitely a good thing.
Jan. 6th, 2012 09:05 pm (UTC)
Lovely pics. I prefer fictional places because if it is somewhere I know then I'm too absorbed in spotting the place references and don't enjoy the story. Or raving and ranting because some detail is wrong.

My worse geography blunder was in a Regency romance by a NYT Best selling mainstream author (who should have been able to afford an atlas). The heroine went south from London to get to Yorkshire. And later the couple made a trip from Cornwall (which I think was north of London at the time) to Yorkshire in about four hours by horse and carriage.

(Yorkshire is in the north of England and about 200 miles north of London. Cornwall is about 300 miles south-west of London. And a trip from Cornwall to Yorkshire, at around 400 miles, would take more than four hours today in a fast car using motorways. And yes I did have to double check my details before posting!)
Jan. 6th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked the pics.

Geography isn't too difficult to figure out in this age of Google Maps and the OS website. At least not for long distances. And short distances in cities can be done with Google Earth where necessary. So authors have no excuse.

Having said that, I do get distracted in some books about places I know, trying to work out where the real and made-up bits intersect.
Helen Pattskyn
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
I had to come up with something similar for something I'm writing. Google Maps and probably MapQuest, too, will tell you how long it will take you to get somewhere by car, by bus, by FOOT *and* by bicycle. If a person can't use all of that information to figure out how long it will take to get somewhere by horse and carriage... I don't know, lazy, maybe?

I know writers aren't perfect, but doesn't a NYT best selling author have an editor (or three) to notice mistakes like that?

Jan. 7th, 2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
I haven't tried MapQuest before, but I may have a play with it later, now that you mention it...
Jan. 7th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
Wow -- I love your inspiring places. As I you know, I also wrote a story inspired by Hebdon Bridge, and I'm very exciting about your Porchester Castle story :D :D :D

Happy Birthday Month to Clare :)
Jan. 7th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
I'm editing the castle story right now!
Jan. 7th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, exciting! Just out of interest, do you have any reference to the Napoleonic prisoners of war in it?
Jan. 7th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
No it doesn't.

But someone needs to write that story. ;-)
Jan. 7th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
Well, it's in my ideas notebook...for a future story, if nobody gets there first ;)
Jan. 7th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
You should write it anyway. I'm sure no one else would have exactly the same idea, or take on the idea.
Jan. 8th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
Super pictures and I think it's a grand idea to check out an area one intends to write about. Actually being there and poking around can offer such nice plot ideas. Not everything shows up on Google Earth, unfortunately, even on the street view, and ones own notes and photos are invaluable. You have some lovely locations there but Portchester is about my favourite - Romans, Normans, Napoleonic POWs and a whole bunch of stuff during WW2. it makes me want to write an Edward Rutherfurd [with a lgbt slant]!
Jan. 8th, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
Glad you like!

More people need to write about Portchester. I fear I'm not doing it sufficient justice.
Jan. 8th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
G'wan! *pokes you* Can't wait to read it!

I'm brewing a Roman story, though, set in Ostia, Rome and Britannia. A visit to Portchester might fit in well with that :)
Jan. 8th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
My story's fantasy rather than historical, but I'm 2/3 of the way through the latest set of edits.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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