Come on a journey with me…
The setting is very important to a novel: the sense of place, time and social environment contextualizes the story so that the reader can visualize and experience it.
I thought it might be fun over the coming weeks for us to go and visit some of the places where my novels have been set. Each time I’ll give you a little of the background as why these locations were important to my story and important to me, and you can read how they fit into the narrative of the book.
We’ll begin in Rufford, a little village in West Lancashire, England, where my debut novel, The Silver Locket, is mainly set.
My route to work each day took me through this pretty little place with its traditional houses, surrounded by flat, fertile farmland. In the evening, I’d see a hawk hovering over a field, then swooping down to catch its prey, and through the early morning mist, a bright barn owl would fly low across the road, almost touching the windscreen.
Near the centre of the village, there is a big, brick-built Victorian house, set back from the road, in large grounds. I was particularly drawn to the huge old oak tree in the garden. It grew in my imagination and over time, the house and garden became the perfect location for my heroine, Laura, to begin her ‘journey’ through the pages of my story.
Early on in the book, Laura visits St. Mary’s, the local church in Rufford. Here, in the churchyard, we learn some important clues about the past inhabitants of the house that Laura has recently inherited, and we meet a new character, about whom there is a definite air of mystery.
St. Mary’s Church, Rufford, is a real place, although its resemblance to the church and churchyard in my story is no more than a passing one. However, I do share Laura’s passion for visiting old graveyards…
Excerpt from ‘The Silver Locket’
Laura was keen to explore some more of the village. She walked down the twisting side road towards St Mary’s Church. Laura had always loved old graveyards; there was something about the hint of past lives engraved on old lichen-covered gravestones which she found curiously satisfying. As Laura worked her way through the headstones reading names and dates it occurred to her that the inhabitants of Rufford had been a particularly hardy bunch, all living to a ripe old age over the last couple of centuries.
One grave stood out to contradict this. It belonged to the Martland family. She leant forward and read the inscription: ‘In memoriam: Peter, beloved son of Thomas and Sarah, aged 22 years, died in a storm off the New Hampshire coast, 28th April 1912.
Then beneath that: ‘Captain Thomas Edgar Martland, aged 49 years, lost with his ship “Ariadne” and all her crew, 14th April 1913.’ There was a poem:
‘Safely moored amongst the peaceful dead
And from his labours rests his weary head,
With Neptune’s waves many times he’s fought,
Yet the blow was struck when least was thought.’
and underneath that…
‘Rest in peace: Sarah, loving wife and mother, died of a broken heart, 15th July 1916, aged 45 years.”
“So sad,” someone said softly behind her.
Laura started. She hadn’t heard anyone approach. She turned to see a big, powerful-looking woman with thick greying hair drawn up into a bun. She wore a brown coat and sturdy-looking shoes.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She spoke with a trace of an Irish lilt in her voice. “So sad, both Peter and the Captain gone and Peter’s first time at sea too.”
“They died within almost a year of each other,” said Laura, looking at the dates.
“That’s right. Peter was on his way back from his first trip to New York and the Captain, he was lost at almost the same time the following year. His poor body was never found. Mrs Martland was never the same again, losing them both… and then…” her voice trailed off. The woman shook her head, gazing beyond the gravestone into the distance. “Sad, so sad…”
“You remember them?” But how could she, thought Laura. The captain and his son had perished 75 years ago. “No, surely it was too long ago?”
The woman smiled back her, her expression far away.
“Do you live round here?” asked Laura. “I’ve just moved into my aunt’s old house in the village.”
“So you have,” said the woman in agreement.
Laura looked at her, wondering how she knew. News travelled fast in a small place like this she supposed. Memories too, would be in the psyche of the village.
“It was my home once.” the woman replied. She reached inside her coat and consulted a small silver fob watch which was pinned to her dress. “I must go now.” She turned abruptly and walked away, her upright figure disappearing behind the west wall of the church.
The Silver Locket: available as a paperback, ebook and on KindleUnlimited