Most of my novels are set in an imagined landscape, and most of them are set in the imagined seaside town of Easthope, the neighbouring city of Strand, and the fading industrial town of Castair. Strand is totally imaginary, and so is Castair; Easthope is on the coast and in my imagination it is a little like Portballintrae and Bushmills in County Antrim, but squished together into a fantasy place.
Easthope is on the River Hope and along the coast from a little fishing village called Opal Harbour, the inspiration for which I took from Ballintoy Harbour, in County Antrim.
There are little villages up on the moors, Lebanon for example and Bethel, all totally conjured by my imagination!
Off the coast is Farholm Island which is not based on any actual place; islands have always featured in stories, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Coral Island, Swiss Family Robinson… tales from my childhood, and islands fascinate me. If anywhre is the inspiration for Farholm it is Rathlin Island off the coast from County Antrim.
Heading out of Easthope, or bypassing it from Strand, is a road which takes you east to Castair through Camel Wood, an old and ancient forest home of mythical beasts including Wulf Lupus, wildmen and other creatures.
In THE STALKING OF ROSA CZEKOV, most of the action takes place in Easthope, Strand and the little village of Oak.
Tyche Kane the heroine faces different dangers in Camel Wood, but the dramatic denouement takes place in Opal Harbour during a dreadful storm. In NIGHT VISION, the story starts in Camel Wood and the wood itself is a major character. THE DOUBLE ACT is also set in Easthope; Dr Herrick, one of the main characters, is on a sabbatical at the University of Strand, and several of the characters end up in Strand Royal Hospital.
One of my earlier novels, FLIPSIDE, is set in a real place, in Lees, Oldham where I used to live. Although the main streets are the same and the characters visit some real pubs, there is a fictitious mill (19th century factory) called Spo Mill. LOVING JUDAH is set in Yorkshire in a small northern market town loosely based on Marsden, in the Pennine Hills.
In my most recently finished novel, in its first draft, the name Portbradden is given to the family whose story I tell. I have taken the name from the tiny hamlet of Portbraddon.
So why is so much of my work based on imaginary places? Perhaps because up until now I have had a day job and been bringing up a family and have not been able to travel to research settings for my novels… perhaps because I have not the skill to research locations on the internet or in books and then recreate those places on the page… perhaps because being imaginary I can create whatever I want, add new streets, whole housing estates, describe new villages, new coastlines, new buildings… I am freeeee!!