Saturday, 8 June 2013

Versions of reality

The railway behind my/Beth's flat in the snow
When I write, I imagine the scene as a film, and I know exactly where it takes place. Sometimes I visit the setting so I get the details right. Tori's flat in Ice Diaries is in B├ęzier, a block on Old Street roundabout, and the manager very kindly showed me round and let me take photos. Sometimes I use places I've looked up on Google, using Street View and estate agents' websites.

Beth's flat in Replica is based on my flat, including the non-working entry phone so Beth has to open a window and lean out to see who has rung her bell. Beth Two's dash through the gardens on to the railway station describes the layout as it was when I wrote it, though the station is now larger. (Nothing in London stays the same for long.)

Chatting about Replica to the offspring's boyfriend, I asked him how he'd imagined Beth's flat. "I think of it as this one," he said. And it occurred to me, he was one of only a handful of readers who would have exactly the same picture in his head of Beth's home and Beth Two's escape as I did. 

Of course, this doesn't matter at all. If an author has done his job properly, the right reader will be able to imagine the scene correctly, though with variations. I can work out when I read some of my favourite books from the settings that come to mind, borrowed from where I was living at the time. Quite unlike films, where we all picture the characters and settings as we have seen them on the screen.

It's strange to think of the thousands of different versions of my novels that play in people's heads, as each reader brings his or her unique experience of life to my fiction.


  1. If you decide to do a novel featuring dinosaurs, and plan to visit the setting, I know a nine-year old little boy who would love to go along.

    Avoid doing war stories.

  2. I'll remember, Russell. Pity he missed my dragon research for Tor and Trav...

  3. I spent many a younger days lost in Old Street roundabout!! It's HUGE! Ahem!! Take care

  4. Surprised I didn't bump into you there, Kitty :o)

  5. If you decide to do a novel featuring dinosaurs, and plan to visit the setting, I know a nine-year old little boy who would love to go along.

    I'm not 9 years old but if you plan using worm holes for your next time travel adventure I would love to come along for the ride! Do you have a portal hidden on platform *1/2 ?

  6. One day I hope to write a full-length time travel novel. I think the first one I read was The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit, which had a portable portal :o)

  7. A portable portal - now why didn't I think of that? Hmm, I think I know why. Sigh.

    My two time travellers had to do an eighty mile round trip to the portal. Scenic route in the coach and horses, M2 in the Jaguar XK.

    I had a very strong sense of place when reading Replica and I can still 'see' Beth leaning out of that window.

  8. Anna, they always say don't make life too easy for your characters :o)

  9. I discovered your books on Amazon and I am so glad that I did! You have fast become my favorite author.

    Almost done with Ice Diaries and I'm putting off finishing it, because I will miss them once the book is done.

    Thank you for your work!

  10. Vera, thank you - writers would be nowhere without readers.

    I'm a quarter way through the next book, with the usual doubts and struggles, but I like what I've written so far, and hope you will in due course :o)