Friday, 31 July 2015

Monogamy Twist's Skipton...

My romantic mystery settings...

Choosing the settings/locations for any novel can be one of the most exciting aspects to consider. In my contemporary novels, I’ve been able to let fly the opportunity to use beautiful locations I’ve enjoyed visiting, sharing some of their exciting details with my readers—yet the choice of these has been easier for some of my novels than for others.

The plot for Monogamy Twist came about as a result of watching a current serialisation of a Charles Dickens novel on TV, whilst I was doing ancestry research for my own family background. I hankered to try writing an 'easy read' contemporary novel as a break from my historical work and it was such an effortless decision to settle on a simple plot along the lines of a bizarre Dickensian style bequest of a substantial, yet dilapidated, house to a very surprised recipient. The mystery would be in the ancestral details and the romance would blossom as a result of the ridiculously archaic bequest conditions. The humour would transpire as a result of the outlandish details of the will. 

But where, I wondered, would be a suitable setting for all that to be credible in a contemporary novel?

Some of the locations Dickens used in his novels were very remote, often almost deserted. Sticking to the traditional, I decided I wanted somewhere in the UK for my novel that could be considered relatively isolated in the twenty first century and still a reasonable trek from London the 'people hub'. I thought of somewhere in Scotland—Caithness perhaps? You don't get much more remote than that on the mainland but I rejected that location pretty quickly because the ‘Dickensian-ness’ (if such a word can be coined) of the plot, I felt, needed the setting to be in England.

After pondering and dithering, rightly or wrongly, I thought that if a substantial house was left in a time warp for many decades it would probably be more credible in the north of England than in the south.

Skipton Castle  -Wikimedia commons
Some vague memories of coach travel in the picturesque rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales during the 1960s resurfaced. The perfect place!

An unspecific setting was settled on: a rambling estate on the periphery of the Yorkshire Dales. I make mention of a few towns which are considered to be not far away from Greywood Hall (Monogamy Twist's bequeathed house). Some of those places are real and some imagined, but in my mind’s eye they were ideal town settings in contrast to a rather 'emptier' very rural estate.

The Rowley collection
Skipton (one of the authentic places mentioned ) is a lovely town with a long history going way back, in fact it’s recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. I couldn’t study images of Skipton back then, but I was able to access images of Skipton during the lateVictorian and Edwardian eras. Those decades play a reasonably major part in the plot as Rhia delves into the history of Greywood Hall and into the ancestry of Amelia Greywood who has bequeathed the Hall to a very surprised Luke Salieri who had never heard of the woman.

In describing some of the Victorian and Edwardian furnishings in the house, I could imagine the occupants of Greywood Hall in both the interior settings and in the surrounding locale.

1911 The Rowley Collection
One of the minor, yet crucial, characters is from Skipton. Though he barely gets a mention, his part is extremely important to the reliability of the mystery.

Getting the timelines correct in an ancestral based mystery is quite painstaking but absolutely essential because the mystery is solved via the tiny details and those ducks have to be perfectly in the row.

In Monogamy Twist, 1911 features as a year when many pivotal things happen to the family of Greywood Hall. 

In reality, 1911 was the year of the Coronation of George V. In the Rowley Collection of photographs, there are some lovely shots taken in 1911 of the market town of Skipton. Browsing through collections like this one is just one of the diversions I've been known to take during the writing of my novels. 

I really enjoyed the mix of writing a contemporary novel which included historical details—even though I had originally set out to write a contemporary story as a break from historical writing! 


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