I’ve been drooling over Kate George‘s posts about her upcoming trip to Scotland and Ireland, which got me thinking about all the books I love that were set in those regions. This is Kate’s debut visit to Romance University – please give her a big welcome. To make this post even more apropos, imagine it being read with an Irish lilt or a Scottish brogue. 🙂
What is it about Ireland and Scotland that make them such popular locations for novels? Is the rugged landscape or the rugged men and women? For some of us, there is the allure of ancient ancestry, but you don’t have to have a long lost relative in the British Isles to be drawn to stories set in the craggy Celtic countryside.
I am about to embark on my second trip to Scotland to research details for a new series, not because Scotland is popular among readers, but because I’m drawn to go. I want to see the places I’m writing about at least one more time. To experience the atmosphere, wander the cobblestone alleys, stride across the rocky highlands.
Is that what we want as readers, to feel we are there?
And if that’s the case, we want to “be” there when we read, then why not a warm beach on a tropical island rather than the harsh Celtic environments? Have you looked outside lately? Here in Vermont, it’s soggy and muddy all covered with a spotty layer of mush that used to be snow. Not pretty. But instead of heading to the Bahamas or some other warm place, I’m heading out on a trip that’s likely to be raw, windy and probably a little wet. I’m thrilled about it.
It was a book that drew me to Ireland, the first time I went to the British Isles on my own. A Disclaimer here, I’m luckier than most, I’ve been to England several times. My mother’s second marriage was to an Englishman, and his parents treated me as their own grandchild. I tramped across the Moors in Yorkshire and stood before the gates of Buckingham Palace. I’m rather fond of London, in a country girl kind of way.
The reason I went to Ireland was because of a book. I had to go alone – my VERY British grandparents were not comfortable traveling to Ireland. They felt they would not be welcome. They happily took me to Scotland and arranged for me to stay in a Kinfauns Castle. But to Ireland, they would not go – but that didn’t stop me from wanting, no needing, to visit Ireland because I read about the Cliffs of Moher in a novel.
Such is the strength of story.
I arrived at the Cliffs of Moher on the Western Coast of Ireland, promptly slipped on the wet grass and got covered in mud and embarrassment. So I didn’t stay and see everything I wished to. I did not explore the difference between fiction and reality.
I would not make that mistake now.
A little mud (read covered from head to foot) would not stop me from seeing everything I wanted to see. You never know when you’ll make it back again. For me it will 30+ years when I make it back to Ireland in the Summer of 2017, if I had known that when I fell in the mud the first time I was at the Cliffs, I would have brushed myself off and stayed a while longer. And enjoyed myself more while I was there.
I think there is something about being a stranger in a beautiful place. Surrounded by people whose accents are lilting and who don’t have any idea what your flaws might be. As a writer, it’s very freeing. Who am I kidding, as a person it’s freeing, as a writer it gives you a doorway into a different way of life. And when you use your imagination to enhance those lives, the reality you know doesn’t get in your way. It adds an element of fun. And besides that, how many murders can you write in your hometown? I think I’m getting to the limit in mine.
If romance is your genre… well, there is no end to the number of romances you can have in any location, but the mystery and magic of Ireland and Scotland add so much. Talk about location being a character. There is so much potential here. The soft and misty land, a gentle place where strange customs enchant strangers and hearts captive. The Hard and craggy highlands, a bleak and unyielding environment where eking out a living takes every last ounce of energy and little is left for the pursuit of love. The ocean that yields the harvest, is home to Selkies and sea ghosts, and also takes unwary human lives.
There is an abundance of raw material in these islands. I am tempted to say even more so for not being overly familiar, but I’m a writer if I want to imagine a time door, or a gateway to hell, or even a stairway to the stars in my own backyard… well, I’ll just do it. The research would certainly be a lot less expensive than a trip overseas. But I can’t help myself. I have traveling stories in my head, and so I must travel. Because it is when I push myself out of my comfort zone, out of the familiar and day to day, that the stories begin to live. It’s when I’m out of my element they begin to breathe and grow – becoming so much more than when they come from imagination alone.
What are your favorite locations to explore in fiction? Have you had the opportunity to visit those places in real life?
Join us every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for tips on writing craft and posts about the world of fiction and publishing.
Kate George is a native Californian, a flatlander in the vernacular of locals, living in the hills of Vermont. She writes mystery with a side of laughter and a romance chaser when she’s not wrangling kids, dogs or various employers. Her next book should be out in Spring of 2016 – provided the beta readers find anything at all to like! Join her on her next trip to Ireland and Scotland in Summer of 2017 – http://kategeorge.grouptoursite.com/, or find her at www.kategeorge.com
Bree MacGowan is back…and in just as much trouble as ever!
It takes a lot to shock Bella Bree MacGowan these days, but that’s what happens when she goes to Planet Hair and discovers a dead guy with diapers covering the bullet wound that killed him, and not a drop of blood anywhere. She’d be happy to let the cops handle this one – after all, finding three dead bodies in the space of a year is enough for any girl – but when the South Royalton Weekly starts to topple, Bree knows how to save it (and her job): Get the scoop on the investigation. But there’s no scoop if you wait around for the police to drop stale information, so Bree takes matters into her own hands – while bumping heads with sexy, stubborn federal agent Richard Hambecker.
Can she get the goods and get out without getting in over her head? Well, crazier things have happened…and they usually happen to Bree.
- None Found