I always like to have a strong sense of place when writing a novel. I wouldn’t consider myself the kind of writer who labours over detailed, lyrical description of landscape and surroundings — far from it. My primary concern is always what’s going on in my principle character’s head. Nonetheless, without the capacity to visualise in detail where he/she is I quite often find myself struggling with the other aspects of the novel. Environment is an extremely important part of understanding who my characters are, even if I share only a little of the detail with my readers.
Wherever possible, I like the places I use to be real towns, cities, villages etc — or to at least be based upon them. In the early stages of planning a novel I will quite often consciously look for new places I haven’t used before, places that will reflect my character in the right way and provide the necessary possibilities I will need. The Yesterday Tree (the new name for We Are Watching) was no exception. I knew early on I wanted the North York Moors to feature. In winter it is a stark and awe-inspiring place, the sky seemingly going on forever. I knew virtually from day one that I would set some major scenes out there. There would be a dead man. A suicide. Probably more — much, much more.
But where was my protagonist going to live? He wasn’t a city or town man, that much I already knew. So it had to be a village — or at least a market town.
Last Wednesday, I found the perfect place. Thornton-le-Dale.
Nothing bad could ever happen there, right?
We’ll see about that!