Wintertime Blues: Seasonally Affected Settings?

Francesca considers her wintertime blues and wonders whether this affects the seasons she sets her stories in.

Winter sunset – pretty but too early in the day (Devon)

As a child I don’t think I paid much heed to the clock change of late October that caused daylight to disappear an hour earlier in the afternoons. To me at that time it meant apple bobbing at school, Guy Fawkes Night and ultimately, Christmas. The Yuletide period didn’t appear in the shops so early back then, certainly not in September, and definitely not August when the seasonal catalogues tend to plop through the letterbox these days.

Even now, the earliest I am willing to entertain Christmas is November. I’ve wondered recently whether I’ve picked this random date because the clocks change around the same time and dark afternoons become a reality. After this event I wait eagerly for the first of the Christmas lights to appear in front gardens and windows, as I drive along the road.

One of the summer settings I’ve used (Littlehampton)

Once the festive season is over and the decorations are packed away, I look each evening for signs of later sunsets. I dread the winter months, not because of the cold weather but because of the short days. Possibly this is the reason that five of the six contemporary novels I’ve written are set largely over spring and summer, as is the serial and many of my short stories. Could this be a manifestation of something I shall call Writer’s SAD?

The novel that does have a large winter element ends in July. Two others that begin in late winter likewise end in the summer. The historical I’m currently working on, set in a Welsh mining village in the Valleys in World War I, starts in a November. There is a real life reason for this, but this will also end in July because I want it to.

Maybe you prefer a winter setting (Amsterdam)

Maybe there is something symbolic about beginning a novel in winter and ending it in the summer, for me at least. They start at a ‘dark’ time, ending with sunshine and ‘light’. I could be reading too much into this and it’s probably simply that I like spring and summer so I contrive, albeit subconsciously, to set most of the action then.

Do any of you have a favoured season in which to set your novels, or is it just me?

@FCapaldiBurgess

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Who’d Live in a House Like This?

Francesca looks at finding the right home for a story’s characters. And she has good news!

All novels, short stories and serials need settings. All characters need somewhere to live (unless they’re vagrants – but I guess even they’d need a place to shelter).

The houses in my stories have a number of origins. The cafe in my first novel was based on my dad’s, that in the fourth novel on one in Whitstable. The main house in my second novel was based very loosely on my own (though so much neater and tidier!). The abode in my third novel was completely out of my head, yet I can picture it as if I’ve lived there. Houses in my current novel are based on those that exist in the village I’ve based my setting on, if you see what I mean! Though I’ve had to make up the interiors.

Some of you might know a computer game called The Sims, where you build homes and people, then control their destinies. I’ve used this program more than once just to build my characters’ houses, to see what they look like.

What does one need to consider when creating a house? How many rooms / bedrooms are needed for a start. Is it a small or large house? Are the characters crowded in or rattling around? What’s their financial status, and does it match or mismatch the house? Is the house in the right period for the story? It would be bad form to have a Georgian family in a Victorian house (unless it’s some kind of time slip), or to give a Tudor house sash windows. The publisher, Countryside Books, has a number of guides on houses from different eras, as well as other period knowledge, which can be very useful for this kind of research.

So, who’d live in a house like this? Do any of them conjure up a character or characters. What’s their story?

Whitstable

Llangrannog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Llangrannog Tori

Tintagel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tenby

Newcastle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam

Ightham playground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newcastle 2

Hastings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapel House Pembrokeshire

Wendy House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotney

Middle Coombe Farm Devon

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Downs

Arundel Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any idea what or where any of these buildings are?

Lastly, my good news. First of all, having been a runner up in the People’s Friend serial competition last year, I’m now completing the serial for them. No news yet of when it’ll be published, but I’ll post about it when I know. Secondly, I was longlisted in the Frome short story competition. Lastly, I’ve been shortlisted in the Wells Festival of Literature competition for a children’s story, with my second Young Adult novel, How to Handle Plan B. I won’t know the result of that until mid October.

Happy house hunting!

Links: Countryside Books

 

Bring Me Sunshine…

Elaine Roberts has a fascinating hobby, and it’s not writing!

I have been on holiday for the last week, enjoying the sunshine in Cornwall and Devon, staying

River Fowey from our bedroom terrace

River Fowey from our bedroom terrace

near the River Fowey and then moving on to the River Dart. One of my favourite hobbies is people watching; it fascinates me and only last week, I watched them while tucking into the lovely Cornish ice cream. The decision making of which flavours to have; banana, liquorice, caramel, bubble gum and coffee, along with the more traditional ones, was a feat in itself, hmmm. Anyway, as a well-known comedian once said, “I digress”.

Watching young and old alike, I thought how much happier people seem to be when the sun is out. Couples held hands, sometimes giving each other a little kiss as they sat in the sun or walked along. Children were laughing and, I don’t know about you, but whenever a child laughs, I start smiling myself. Everyone was moving slower, enjoying the heat on their bodies, some tucking into cones of ice cream; many children’s faces were covered in it. Adults and children were fishing for crabs off the riverbank, some celebrating their catches.

The view of the River Dart from our hotel room

The view of the River Dart from our hotel room

Many older couples appeared to be in their own world as they sat by the river, watching boats of all shapes and sizes sail by, some barely acknowledging each other’s existence. The younger people seemed lost in their mobile phones, texting or playing games. In this instant world, I watched people of all ages allow the mobile phone to interrupt or replace conversations.

I smiled as a grandma tried to use the modern method of getting a small child to do as they are told by counting to five. The child laughed and carried on running around the restaurant, with the grandma following her. As you can imagine, in the child’s eyes, this became a game.

It made me think about the writing of characters and settings. Everything around us is a feast for a writer to indulge in. Does the weather affect their moods and also what they are wearing? Does it make them forget, or reinforce their problems? Does the sun have a therapeutic affect on their personalities, or when they have a problem, do they notice what the weather is doing?

The question I asked myself was – is this reflected in my writing? I like to think yes, but maybe I need to have another read through, just to be sure. Perhaps I’ll have ice cream first.

@RobertsElaine11

 

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Us

Elaine and Francesca reveal six snippets each about themselves you may not know.

Elaine:

1: I wrote my first novel when I was in my mid-twenties, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was, but it’s suffice to say I’m now a grandmother. I sent it off to Mills and Boon, as they were known then, and received a lovely rejection. However, it was at this point that life got in the way and the decision was made to bury my dream, because things like that don’t happen to people like me. Joining The Write Place and The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) has taught me to follow my dreams, because every author I have met has been like every other person you meet.

Alas CD's and not vinyls.

Alas CD’s and not vinyls.

2: I grew up listening to various types of music, my mum was a Rat Pack fan and my father was a massive Beatles fan and both play a huge part in my music collection. However, what was a shock to me, and consequently I am sure no-one else could possibly know, is that my favourite decade for music is the sixties. The only exception is the Glam Rock years, ahh my teenage years.

3: Before the writing took hold, my creativity was in the form of needlework and crocheting. I found it relaxing, with some wonderful finished items. It was always a favourite hobby of mine and as a young mum, I saved money by making my own clothes and my children’s. I also did alterations and made outfits for other people.

IMG_01434: For as long as I can remember I have been a home girl. There is nothing I like better then being curled up in a chair with a good book. As a child, my mother worried I wasn’t getting enough fresh air, and in her mind I should have been out playing, having fun; what she didn’t understand was that I was having fun in my imaginary world. Unfortunately, the more I write, the less I read and that is something I do miss.

5: My father was a military man and when I was just over fourteen, we moved to Germany. I had to wait several months for a school place and consequently found a job working for the Navy, Army, Air Force Institute (NAAFI) and I stayed working there for nearly three years.

Elaine at the RNA Awards evening.

Me at the RNA Awards evening.

6: I am going to end on something that might astound some people. I am a very shy person. It takes a lot for me to walk into a room of strangers and I will very rarely speak to someone I don’t know. I always assume nobody will remember me. It probably comes across as standoffish and that is hopefully not what I am. If you see me at an event at any time, please come and say hello because I will definitely be too shy to come over to you. I am more secure in my imaginary world.

Francesca:

1: Anita Roddick of Body Shop fame was my second cousin. Both her father and step father were first cousins of my dad, and of each other. Her parents’ love story, both complicated and fascinating, is detailed in Anita’s biography. It would make a great premise for a novel. FB & EJ

2: Several years ago I met actor Elijah Wood and had this photograph taken with him. I was at a London Comic Con with fellow Lord of the Rings fans. Elijah was utterly charming.

3: I’ve spoken often of being half Italian and half Welsh, but in fact I am one sixteenth Devonshire on my mum’s side. Many people in the late 19th/early 20th century, farm labourers and tin miners for instance, moved from the West Country to South Wales to work in the coal mines. Most of the rest of my Welsh family came from farming in West Wales and the slate mines in North Wales. I’ve written two stories based on them so far and I’m sure there are many more stories to be told.

Lorenzo Capaldi, c1908. He won a medal for his work during the 1908 earthquake.

Lorenzo Capaldi, c19o8

4: One of my middle names is a boy’s name. Andrea (pronounced ‘Andraya’) means ‘Andrew’ in Italian and is never used for girls.  My mother wanted it as my first name but my father wouldn’t hear of it. My other middle name is Giuliana.

Islwyn Morgan, late 1930s.

Islwyn Morgan, late 1930s.

5: Both my grandfathers died long before I was born. My maternal grandfather, Islwyn Morgan, died of cancer at the age of 30 during World War II. My paternal grandfather, Lorenzo Capaldi, was killed in World War I in his early thirties. His widow and son (ie, my grandmother and father) featured in an imagined short story I wrote that you can read in the anthology 7 Food Stories from Rome.

6: I was a millionairess for ten years… That is to say, I was a lire millionairess! After my aunty Carmela died she left my father several million Italian lire. It took ten years for Italy to release the money, by which time my father had died and I became the ‘heiress’. The resultant money was worth around £2,500.

Have you any little nuggets to share?