- by Anna Jacobs
I’ve been looking through my backlist while converting books to ebooks, and it’s brought home to me how very strongly place has influenced my writing. Born in the UK, I’m a ‘Lancashire lass’ ie from the north-west, but I’m also Australian now. I love both sides of my cultural heritage, and it shows in my books.
When I graduated I moved away from Lancashire—don’t we always flee our families in the search for ourselves? But when I started writing, where did I set my first big novel? Lancashire, of course.
I didn’t know then that I was writing a saga, UK style, a genre that focuses very much on regional history and culture. I enjoyed writing it so much I’ve been writing regional sagas ever since, which has meant researching the sort of history they never taught us at school.
At first all my stories were set in Lancashire, but I’d emigrated to Australia in the meantime and eventually I just had to write a story set there – which did well enough for my UK publisher to want more. I love the variety of setting and find it very stimulating.
I started writing modern novels at the same time as we began house swapping holidays from Australia. This gave us a temporary base in the UK and allowed wonderful reunions with our families. And naturally, it led to several different backgrounds for my modern stories, starting with Dorset, in the south-west, our first house swap. For a while we went all over the place, Cheshire, modern Lancashire, Ireland, Derbyshire, Wiltshire – and so did my stories. In fact, I’ve had a ball.
Using places you visit as settings for novels makes you look at them with a different eye, and you learn far more about them than you would if you were just playing tourist. I hope doing this for my stories has given my readers a taste of a few new places, too.
I’ve even been around the universe when I was writing SF/F as Shannah Jay – the stories are now out as ebooks if you want to join me on a much longer trip.
My previoushistorical novel (Beyond the Sunset) has taken readers by a lesser known route from Australia to England in the 1860s, via Galle (in what is now Sri Lanka), Suez (before the canal was built), Alexandria and Gibraltar.
My latest modern novel (Licence to Dream) is set in a small town in the state of Western Australia, which readers would probably never ‘visit’ otherwise. It was one of the earliest places settled in that state, but it is still a very small country town.
My new historical novel (Cherry Tree Lane) takes readers to Swindon, Wiltshire, a railway town, in 1910 and then to the beautiful countryside nearby.
Do come and travel with me sometime. It’s fun.