Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do you want to read about Hull?

I don't know how many times I've tried to write this post - but I know that each time I've started it  - or even thought about it - something has happened to interrupt  me. These interruptions  have tended to be linked to two things.

1. Builders - we are having the kitchen revamped and extended   and the work started last week so  lots of questions, lots of noise, lots of dirt . . .the cats hate it, we can't get the car into the drive . . . .
I keep telling myself it's going to look wonderful when it's done - and it is - but right now it's chaos.

2. Interviews  - it seems that someone said - in a blog about settings for books :

The precise setting matters: Edinburgh and London will work well. Leicester and Hull less so. With apologies to Leicester and Hull. (And this does NOT mean you can't set books in Leicester and Hull, just that they won't of themselves be a draw to those who don't appreciate the romantic aspects of those cities.)

And as I live near Hull and have given several workshops and talks there,  the local radio - Radio Humberside - wanted  to interview me to know what I thought.

What do i think? Well that it you are writing a romance  then you are writing the story of the emoitonal journey of your hero and heroine - and they are what matter. Just as in real life when it isn't  wher you are but who you are with the makes a romantic time,  so in a romantic novel it's the people  whose story you are telling who matter.  
Of course there are more obviously 'romantic' settings that appeal to  a large number of people and so might make a book attractive  - Venice, Rome, Paris, all have that image - but it still depneds on who you are with or what the emotional story might be. Personally I spent one of the least romantic days of my life in Paris and as a city it has never appealed to me since - but my sister spent her honeymoon there - so obviously we'll disagree over that!  And I have had some very romantic days/evenings . . . nights   in some totally unromantic  seeming places. 

The trouble with the accepted 'romantic' images are that they tend to be the easy sell - the places where it's easy(easier) to create a romantic setting   that will quickly an effortlessly be picked up on by a reader.  But the 'easy sell' is that because it has been used so often that it can become a shortcut/shorthand - and unfortunately can be used so often it also become a cliché  - and so not inspiring or interesting at all.  And it's still matters that it's who you're with /who you are reading about. A gloriously romantic setting won't make a dull book exciting or a  slow story into a pacy best seller.

Which is basically what I said on the Radio Humberside interview. It must have sounded alll right because the next thing  was that I had a phone call  from the local news programme - Look North - who are also covering  this 'Hull won't work well as a setting'  subject - asking if I would do an interview for them too.
Which wasn't quite as  simple a request as it sounds - when I took the phone call I had a conditoning pack on my hair, was in the scruffiest jeans and tee shirt, no make up - and my work room was a tip!

I had an hour while the interviewer drove from Hull to here to sort that out - rinse hair, dry  hair, find some makeuo, do face - change clothes .  . .

The 'tidying'of the room was done by my patented method - pick up all the mess, piles of papers, assorted (and not sorted) bits and pieces and take them into another room. Dump them there and shut the door firmly. Return to office and wipe a duster hastily aroud all surfaces.  . .  finished just intime.

The interviewer was lovely, very relaxed and good at putting me at my ease. (Thank you Rowan!)  We did all the filming and I answered all the questions.  I think it went well - apart from the one moment when Flora decided to get into the action and jumped on the back of my chair, swishing her tail around and draping it across my face - we had to  redo that bit!

So now I'm sirtting here knowing the result will be on Look North in  a very short time - the programme is at 6.30. I expect that only a very little bit of what I said will ve shown in amongst lots of other comments but it was an experience - and I have a cleaner, tidier room to show for it!

You may be able to catch the programme on the play it again facility on the web site here.
And I'd like to know what you think. How important is the setting of a novel for you? Do you want to read about glamorous international  settings - one that have the romantic 'easy sell'? Or are you interested in trying new places  in books - or not bothered where the book is set so long as the characters are fascinating and the story intense and emotional?

I'd love to know - specially if you come from Hull.


Raven McAllan said...

as I dash into other room scattering papers, ignoring the edits, and frantically turning TV on, to try and get it to BBc north not Scotland. succeed and sit to wait....

TashNz said...

Hi Kate. I love your method of cleaning up.

I'm on the other side of the world and the only country I've been to is my neighbour across the ditch - Australia, so I find all the cliched settings mysterious and romantic because I've never been there before and I make it up in my imagination what it all looks like. It's all part of the journey for me but I'm not bothered if it's not in the storyline for the NZ and Oz based stories because Im familiar with the area and doesnt require any imagination on my part. Hope this makes sense :)))

Kate Walker said...

I son't know if you caught it Raven but it was a real blink and you miss it moment - at least lots of my titles appeared!

Kate Walker said...

Tash that method of tidying my office never fails whenever I have 'work' visitors - the only trouble is that then I have to bring it all back in.

I totally agree wiht you about the way that even the least exciting places - to someone who lives there - can seem so much more inherestiing with an ocean or two in between - and it's travelling in our imaginatiion that makes the difference.

Susie Medwell said...

Hi Kate, I think my tidying up method is very similar to yours! I think for me it depends how the author uses the setting. I don't want it to dominate the story, as it's the characters that are important to me (in a romance at least). A cliched setting can sometimes make the writing seem a little lazy, as the place name is left to conjure up the impact on the story whereas for me it is the evocative use of the place that brings the story to life - the mist creeping in, the sun on the rooftops, the smell of the sea. Any place can be romantic, or dismal, depending on the mood of the moment.

Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' said...

Having renovations of any sort on the house is a nightmare. You have my sympathy. Nothing but dirt and mess everywhere.

Secondly, I'm with you on Hull. People don't read romantic novels to read about scenery. No doubt, romantic settings are nice, but the story is the real star, not the setting. I mean, who would have thought that bleak and wild moorlands would provide a setting for romance? But it worked for Emily Bronte.

PrincessFiona01 said...

A lot of my favourite books have settings that are unknown and presumably not memorable. Penny Jordan wrote a stack set around Cheshire. Jean Macleod introduced me to obscure places in Scotland. Mary Burchell had settings all over England in rural villages. Betty Neels did so too and added Holland for spice. But when it comes down to it the important thing isn't the place but the characters and the story. One of my favourite Roberta Leigh novels was in the industrial midlands. It was important to the storyline. What does annoy me is when the place becomes so important I have to skim through pages of description about the exotic location to find my hero and heroine. The background should be a tool to help the characters interact, not the main 'character'.


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