Below is a screen shot of a twitter conversation I had at the tail end of January with Beth Trissel, sparked by a link she posted to a post about how your setting can become a character itself within your book.
Now, I’ll admit that I responded to the tweet before I’d read the post it cited, and so my response wasn’t exactly in keeping with what the post was about. But what I spoke about here is still valid. Westmouth and Westmouthshire, have taken on a life of their own and are now as real to me as any place I’ve ever visited and a lot of places I haven’t.
I mean, I know that New York, Los Angles and Las Vegas are real places, but since I’ve never been there, and my only experience of them is through fiction (albeit TV and Cinematic fiction rather than written) then why should they be any more real to me that Westmouth, a place that I can picture just as vividly in my mind as any of the pictures I see on the small or big screen.
Westmouth came about because I needed a setting for Kissed by a Rose. I needed a university town where the university was at the heart of the town rather than on the periphery. It was originally based on Aberystwyth, where I went to uni. Indeed, Westmouth University’s campus very much resembles the campus in Aber that I remember from my time there in that it’s up on a hill and there is a central plaza with the Library on one side (it’s actually the Art Centre in Aber), the Student’s Union building on another side, an academic department on the third side and the final side is open with a view over the town and sea beyond.
Similarly, when I picture Westmouth seafront in my head, I see a larger version of the curved seafront in Aber.
During the course of writing Kissed by a Rose, I had to place certain buildings on the campus or in the town, and these places have recurred in subsequent books.
Eternally & Evermore was also set mostly in Westmouth, but I needed another town close by too. One that wasn’t as prosperous as Westmouth. Which is the reason that Walminster was invented. Walminster is also based on a real place, although on further away from Aber than Walminster is from Westmouth-my home town of Wolverhampton.
And so Westmouth expanded to become Westmouthshire, a county with two large towns dominating it, a few smaller towns and many villages. In fact, even though I envisage Westmouthshire to be on the south coast, sort of where East Sussex is I suppose, it reminds me of the country I currently live in, Northamptonshire.
In A Good Man, the setting shifted from Westmouth to one of the county’s smaller towns, Micester. Westmouth still featured, and Walminster got a mention. A Tortured Soul, takes us back to Westmouthshire began, Westmouth University.
So though the course of four books, as well as some of the characters reoccurring, the places have too. And because those same places keep popping up, they have become real to me. And I hope that comes across. I was recently told by a reader that they genuinely believed Westmouth was a real place and had tried to look it up. So I guess that means I must be doing something right.