I’ve been away for about a week – to my parents’ house in Hertfordshire, my grandparents’ house in Coventry and the Lake District. I would have posted some kind of ‘going away for a bit’ post, beforehand, but I didn’t think I’d need to because I made two dangerous assumptions: that I would have internet access at the hostel and that I’d take time out of my holiday to blog. True, I couldn’t have blogged without internet access but if the hostel did have wi-fi, would I have done? We’ll never know. That is destined to be another of life’s great mysteries.
While I was away, particularly in the Lakes, I was thinking about how much different places affect our writing. Do you write in the way that you write because of where you live or where you are now? If Jane Austen and Emily Bronte had grown up in each others’ homes, would Bronte still have written Wuthering Heights? Would Emma and Pride and Prejudice be any different?
Norwich has inspired a few of my stories – or at least given me a setting. Would I have written those stories if I didn’t live in Norwich? No, because the sense of place is important to them but I may have written similar stories – stories exploring the same themes or even with the same basic plot. When I lived in Hertfordshire, I never used it as a setting and was never inspired by the place but I still wrote. Some of what I wrote was inspired by other places – places I’d visited on holiday, for example. While I was in the Lake District I was looking for inspiration. I guess you could say I expected to or wanted to be inspired by the place but nothing came. Maybe something will later, but being there did not inspire me at the time. On the train, however, I got loads of ideas. I think there’s something about travelling that sets me off. Maybe it’s the travelling mood or frame-of-mind that does it, I don’t know.
I would say, however, that my background does affect my writing because it affects who I am. If I had been born and grown up in America or China I would be a very different person and my writing would be different. So, in that sense, where you live does affect your writing but only in terms of the way the culture and society of that place affects your personality. Sometimes being in a certain place inspires you to set something there but I don’t think that if you’d never been there you’d never write that story – it would just have a different sense of place. This would, of course, change the story a lot – if Wuthering Heights was set in London, for example, it would be different, but it would have the same essence because it would have the same author.
How has your writing been affected by where you live?