Today Eva Gates, author of Read and Buried, a Lighthouse Library mystery, is joining us at Ascroft, eh? to share her thoughts on real vs fictional settings for stories.
Welcome Eva. Without any further delay, I’ll turn the floor over to you:
Real vs. Fictional Settings: My version of Hogwarts
Generally speaking, a novel can be set in one of two places: a real place or a fictional place. (Or some combination of both).
There are a lot of good reasons to create a fictional setting for a book: No one can point out all your mistakes; if something doesn’t work for you, you can just make it up; avoids all that pesky research.
On the other hand, setting a book in a real place, adds an element of realism. People can go to the location of scenes in your book, or remember having been there. That helps to bring a book and its characters vividly to life.
My Sherlock Holmes Bookshop (written under the name of Vicki Delany) series is set in a fictional version of a real town in a real place. My town of West London is in Cape Cod, pretty much where Chatham is actually located. The Year Round Christmas mysteries (also by Vicki Delany) have a more vague setting – somewhere on the Southern Shores of Lake Ontario – and the town of Rudolph isn’t intended to represent anywhere.
But it’s different for the Lighthouse Library series written under the name of Eva Gates. Not only have I set the books in a real place – the Outer Banks – but in a very specific real place – The Bodie Island Lighthouse.
I took the framework of that real, and marvellous, lighthouse, which is essentially just a small outer building attached to a 210 foot tall tower with a spiral iron staircase inside and a big lamp on the top, and built a whole new world inside it. A library, complete with back staircases, offices, staff break room, broom closet, meeting room, rare books room, shelves overflowing with books. I even gave it a small apartment for my character, Lucy Richardson, to live in.
I think of it as my version of the Tardis or Hermione Granger’s beaded handbag. Far larger on the inside that it appears from the outside.
But having done that, I wanted to be true to the marvellous setting of the lighthouse, and kept the outside of the building and its surroundings (minus the souvenir shop and tourist center!) intact.
As for the Outer Banks and the town of Nag’s Head, I’ve worked hard to make everything as realistic as possible. I’ve visited a couple of times, taking lots of pictures and careful notes. Back at home, Google Earth is an invaluable resource for checking the layout of streets, the location of public buildings and things like that. In the books I mention some real places, such as Owen’s Restaurant, the restaurant at the Nags Head Fishing Pier, the police station/town hall complex, and have people living on real streets. But I don’t describe real houses, or give street addresses. In the second book in the series, Booked for Trouble when Lucy’s mother stays at a hotel, the hotel is totally fictitious. After all there are shenanigans galore going on at that hotel, and I don’t want anyone to think I know something I don’t!
It’s been a lot of fun taking real places and using them as scenes for my stories. I hope that Read and Buried will give you a feeling for the Outer Banks and a glimpse into its history. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to visit someday (if you haven’t already) and think of Lucy Richardson climbing the spiral iron stairs to her lighthouse aerie after a day in the library when you visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse.
Thanks for introducing yourself and your series to us, Eva.
Readers can learn more about Eva Gates and the Lighthouse Library mysteries by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter (@vickidelany @evagatesauthor).
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Eva Gates/Vicki Delany: Vicky is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than thirty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Tea By The Sea mysteries for Kensington, the Year Round Christmas mysteries for Penguin Random House, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series and, as Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library books for Crooked Lane. Vicki is a past president of the Crime Writers of Canada and co-founder and organizer of the Women Killing It crime writing festival. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.