Today, I'm thrilled to have the lovely Shana Galen here to bring us some of that sunshine with her merry smile, her stunning new cover and a jolly chat about the sometimes upside down, inside out world in which we writers live and write.
Thanks so much for stopping by. Please help me welcome Shana, and don't forget to leave a comment for her below!
by Shana Galen
Have you ever packed for a trip somewhere with weather quite different from yours, and despite checking the weather in your destination, you still packed for your current location? I do this all the time. I attend several writing conferences a year, and many of them are across the country from my home base in Houston, Texas.
I remember the year I attended a conference in Chicago in April. In Houston, April is warm, temperatures in the 80s. In Chicago, the weather was in the 50s. Despite knowing logically that the 50s is colder than the 80s, most of the clothes I packed were sundresses and sandals. I froze the first day I arrived and tried not to venture out of the hotel where I was staying. It’s hard to imagine 50-degrees when you’re living in 80-degrees.
The converse is also true. A few years ago my family and I went to Disneyworld in December. Orlando and Houston have similar weather, but that week Houston was in the 30s and Orlando was unseasonably hot with temps in the 80s and low 90s. I still packed jeans and coats and sweaters and then was too hot as I walked around Disney.
I run into this problem a lot when I’m writing. It’s very common for me to be scheduled to write a Christmas novella set in England in the middle of a sweltering Houston summer. How do I do it? I use my imagination. A lot.
Most authors who write historical fiction have to use their imaginations. We can read first-hand accounts of life in London or Paris, and even if we’ve been to the cities on vacation, the London of 2015 is not the London of 1820. At most, we hope for a glimmer of what was to spur our imagination.
Another element of setting I pay attention to is location. My most recent release, EARLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN, is set in London. It’s filled with descriptions of busy streets, street hawkers, jostling crowds, and of course, that ever-present London fog. But not all of London was the same. Part of the book is set in the wealthy area of Mayfair, while the rest of the book is set in the slums of Seven Dials. I really wanted to juxtapose the two settings, because even though they are geographically close, they are miles apart in setting. Mayfair had open spaces, clean (by the standards of the day) streets, posh houses, and was considerably quieter than other areas of London. I once read that the really rich had straw put on the streets in front of their houses so the sounds of carriages passing would be muted.
Seven Dials was dark and filthy with rubbish in the street and walks. Unkempt children ran free. Gin houses were prevalent, which meant drunk men and women were commonplace, as were prostitutes and thieves—not that there was much to steal in Seven Dials. I read an account from a physician who attended a sick person in one of the London rookeries, and he mentioned the room where the family lived was so dark, even in the middle of the day, he had to bring extra lamps with him to see.
Quite a contrast from those whitewashed mansions in Mayfair!
My next book, WHILE YOU WERE SPYING, will be out in April, and while it takes place in England during the early 1800s, it’s set in the Hampshire and Yorkshire countryside. Not only was the country quite different from the city, Hampshire and Yorkshire have very different landscapes as well.
It’s no wonder I sometimes look up from writing about a rainstorm in the chilly Hampshire countryside to be momentarily confused at the hot sun outside my window, with its view of the sprawling city.
Readers what sorts of settings do you enjoy? London? New York? Small towns? Exotic locations? One person who comments will win a copy of EARLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (open internationally).