‘They hanged the rebels in the market square. Rain hung in the air. Heavy drizzle that characterised this part of England: thicker than mist and turning the world grey and damp.
A cheerless day for a brutal act.’
I was on a walk through the Cheshire countryside when the opening lines of my December release, The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge popped into my head. At that point I had no idea who the rebels were or how their deaths would impact on characters I had yet to meet but I could picture them perfectly in the grey wetness of a Cheshire autumn. I had set my previous book, The Blacksmith’s Wife, in my hometown York and it felt a natural progression to set the next in my adopted area where I’ve lived for fifteen years.
Like Constance, the heroine of my story, when I moved to Cheshire I was struck by how wet and dank and downright miserable it can get around here. The dense woods, dramatic hills and rocky outcrops overlooking the plain of Cheshire, often clouded in fog (and rain) made it a perfect backdrop for a dark story of betrayal, revenge and second chances. It’s often possible to look out and not see any evidence of modern life, perfect for imagining myself in the Middle Ages.
Discovering a sense of place has been a key element in planning all my books. I love inventing worlds for my characters to inhabit but if I already have somewhere in mind it makes it so much easier to describe for the reader. Castles and houses, gardens and countryside from all over the UK and further afield have found their way into my stories. Wherever I go I have my phone with me and often infuriate my family by stopping to take pictures of a setting that has caught my eye.
Although my first book, Falling for Her Captor, was set in a fictional kingdom it was heavily based on the geography of North Wales, in particular the route across the mountains to the isle of Anglesey. The wide river that Aline hurls herself into and finds herself caught by a stronger current than expected was based on the Menai Straits. My own experience of that particular body of water was on a residential visit with a class of eleven year olds where we found ourselves drifting out towards the sea on a kayak and had to be pulled back to shore by the instructors (sadly none of them as gorgeous as my hero, Hugh).
My second book, A Wager for the Widow, was based in Devon and the heroine’s house on a spit of land cut off by the tide was based on St Michael’s Mount. At least I thought it was until I returned to Brittany this summer for the first time in five years and rediscovered another house in a bay also surrounded by dangerous rocks and strong tides. It seems that even when I’m not consciously thinking about my stories my brain is storing them away for future use!
Readers wanting to see some of the locations that inspired The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge should search out Alderley Edge, Bosley Cloud, Lud’s Church and Macclesfield Forest.
Collage of inspiration pics:
Elisabeth Hobbes grew up in York where she spent most of her teenage years wandering around the city looking for a handsome Roman or Viking to sweep her off her feet. Sadly this never happened, however inspired by this she took a degree in History and Art History before training as a teacher. Elisabeth wrote from a very early age, filling notebooks with stories starring her friends and family. Her official writing career began when she entered her first novel into Harlequin’s So You Think You can Write contest and finished in third place. These days she holds down jobs as a part-time teacher and full-time mum. When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book. Elisabeth’s other hobbies include skiing, Arabic dance, fencing and exploring dreadful tourist attractions, none of which has made it into a story yet. She loves historical fiction and has a fondness for dark-haired, bearded heroes. Elisabeth lives in Cheshire with her husband, two young children, three cats with ridiculous names and a proto-campervan with an even sillier one.
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