The Inspiration for my Novel's Setting by Bea Davenport

I’m delighted to share blog space today with fellow Legend Press writer, Bea Davenport. Bea is author of In Too Deep, a psychological thriller which certainly gets underneath your skin. I really enjoyed it and you can read my full review here. Over to you, Bea:

Working as a journalist is a gift of a job for a would-be writer. Every day, you meet different people, and the reason you meet them is because something interesting, tragic or unusual has happened to them. And they sit and tell you their stories. No wonder so many of us go on to write books – sometimes, the strange, terrible and wonderful things we see and hear can’t be left to become yesterday’s news.

Of course, that’s not to say we steal these stories wholesale, not if we are writers of fiction, but they certainly can act as inspiration. For several years, while working for the BBC, I covered the Northumberland area and my base was a town called Alnwick. It’s a pretty, rural market town on the coast. Every year, up until around 2006, it held a medieval-themed summer fair in which the key attraction was a reconstructed ducking stool over a large tank of water, into which women (and only women) were ducked.

I always thought this was a somewhat eccentric thing to do, and in my writerly brain it also seemed the perfect device for something very nasty to happen. So although this Alnwick tradition inspired the main event in In Too Deep, I created a fictional setting of Dowerby, that I could people with truly fictional characters and occurrences. It let me do so much more with the setting, which I wanted to become almost another character in the novel. What happens to Kim in the plot could not have happened in somewhere different, more urban or less isolated and parochial. Alnwick, as anyone who knows it will agree, has many charms, while Dowerby is somewhere you really wouldn’t want to be. Given some of the plot lines, I’m hoping this fictionality will also keep me out of the libel courts.

I mapped Dowerby out in my head, which I think is important, and it does include composite elements of many other towns I know, as well as characteristics all of its own. A writer has to know and believe in their setting if they are to convince the reader. It’s interesting how readers respond to it, because many do recognise some aspects of real places in Northumberland, but then – I hope – get taken aback by something they don’t expect.

In my new work-in-progress, I’m similarly inspired by settings around the north-east, but again, I’m using an entirely fictional place. The setting of this new piece is an urban, very deprived housing estate and the novel is set in the summer of 1984, with the miners’ strike rumbling in the background. The central event is very dark indeed. It couldn’t be more different to Dowerby and I’m really enjoying writing something so contrasting. I just hope people enjoy reading it!


About the author:

Bea Davenport is the writing name of former print and broadcast journalist Barbara Henderson. Her first crime/suspense novel, In Too Deep, was a runner-up in the Luke Bitmead Bursary and is published by Legend Press.
Bea spent many years as a newspaper reporter and latterly seventeen years as a senior broadcast journalist with the BBC in the north-east of England. She has a Creative Writing PhD from Newcastle University where she studied under the supervision of award-winning writer Jackie Kay and renowned literature expert Professor Kim Reynolds. The children’s novel produced as part of the PhD, The Serpent House, was shortlisted for the 2010 Times/Chicken House Award and will be published by Curious Fox in summer 2014. Bea has also won several prizes for short stories.
Originally from Tyneside, she lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed with her partner and children.

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