Earlier in the month I posted about the locations which had inspired me to create the coastal community of Kingswater – a town of two halves facing each other across the estuary of the fictitious Kings River. Fowey in Cornwall is the main setting, with a few additions from the town of Dartmouth in Devon. The backdrop to a story is important, but another essential part of this parallel universe is what lies within that setting. In Shadows on the Water, Heron’s Gate House and Vineyard played an important role. The inspiration for this came about on a river trip up to Totnes (used for the fictional town Kingshead in the novels) where I spotted what we were told by the tour boat manager was the Sharpham Trust’s Sandridge Barton Vineyards. A new state of the art winery has been built there and a future visitor centre is planned. The vines which sprawl over the hillside towards the banks of the River Dart, produce award winning wines and on September 9th this year the winery will be celebrating its fortieth anniversary. You can read more about the business, their history and the wines and cheese they produce by clicking on the blue and white Sharpham WordPress logo below.
The Sharpham Trust also own a 18th century grade I listed Palladian villa which overlooks the vineyards and faces the river. The house hosts everything from weddings to holistic and art experiences as well as walks, tours, and the opportunity to help in their working garden. I enclose a link below for more details
In Shadows on the Water Heron’s Gate was purely and simply a home, and not a place offering a host of courses and creative activities as Sharpham does. It’s also pale stoned, Georgian and listed with terraced gardens which reach down to the river. It was Sharpham’s location which made me decide it would work very well as Heron’s Gate
In book 2, A Kingswater Summer, one of the main characters, Stella Wynter is a retired actress who lives in a large house up river from Heron’s Gate. No prizes for guessing the inspiration for her home, Penmarra. Of course, it was Agatha Christie’s Greenway which we visited in September 2019. Seeing this amazing house, with its extensive grounds overlooking the river, my imagination began to go into overdrive, recognising the potential for a place where my fictitious actress could have her home.
Stella’s house is a little smaller than Greenway and built of local stone and while Agatha Christie’s home is filled with memorabilia, Stella has instead chosen a designated area in her house. With main character Kiera’s assistance, this will eventually become a place which holds all her treasures and awards from a long and successful acting career.
Greenway perfectly captured this wonderful home by the river with extensive gardens, woods and a myriad of pathways. I also added stables and a boathouse with an apartment over. The boathouse and its apartment were important because I needed somewhere away from the main house for Kiera’s love interest, actor Jake Paterson, to stay. I wanted him to remain a bit of an enigma. A previous and rather unfortunate encounter with Jake, means Kiera isn’t exactly pleased to find him living there. But she’s also curious, and, although she denies it, attracted to this infuriating man. Therefore keeping him at a distance added to the mystery surrounding who he was and why he was there.
So there we are. Location is essential in order to give a book a firm framework in which to tell your story. But equally significant within that setting are the places where people live and work. It gives the characters a proper identity; something I feel is important, especially when writing about communities, as I do.
Next time: Some of the real life situations and characters that have become incorporated into my fictional worlds.
Jo Lambert – Writer of Modern Romantic Sagas