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    Place in a story

    Sydney Opera House VividAs I was having lunch with my lovely husband on a recent Saturday we had an interesting conversation about place in books.

    We’re Sydney people, though we’ve both travelled and lived elsewhere. There’s something about this city that is just magical. It’s the beaches, the harbour and the climate combined I think.

    The disadvantage of Sydney, which is also part of it’s charm and really the whole of Australia suffers from this problem, is its distance from the rest of the world.

    It’s a very long way on a plane to just about everywhere. Still Australians like to travel, we don’t let this deter us. When you write a story it’s important to have a good sense of place and yet so often in books towns are fabricated. Partly that’s because it’s fun to create your own town or city and sometimes these places are amalgams of real towns or are in fact a real town with the name changed (to protect the innocent – I suppose).

    When you write about a real city or town and don’t change it’s name you have to get it right. People will know you can’t get from Kirribilli to say Watson’s Bay in Sydney in seven minutes, people know where the cafes are, how long a train trip takes and whether the 136 bus does in fact go from Manly to Chatswood or not (it does but it’s a very slow bus!).

    In Mr Right and Other Mongrels I set the book in Sydney and I left everything apart from a couple of street names the same. (For your reference there is in fact a Dream House Lane in Sydney but it is not in Lavender Bay where Teddy lived but in another Northern Sydney suburb…I just wanted you to know that while it is a very cheesy name it is real.)

    In Hearts Afire I used parts of Sydney but I did create the name of the suburb where Cassie lives. That suburb is an amalgam of a few suburbs in Sydney’s inner west. (Feel free to guess which ones). The island on the Reef is based on a couple of islands I’ve visited up there.

    So do you like books set in real places you know, or places you might visit or do you prefer a whole new created world?