Behind the Scenes: Part 3 – Setting

In this series of posts, I’m going to be taking you behind the scenes of Greythorne and the process I went through to write it. Click to read Part 1 (The Idea) and Part 2 (Plot and Structure).

Like most Gothic novels, setting is crucial to Greythorne. Whether it’s an isolated, spooky old house (in traditional Gothic) or the threatening emptiness of the landscape (in Australian Gothic, which I’m planning to explore in my next novel), the place is as much a character as the people are.

I made a deliberate choice to keep the setting of Greythorne extremely tight – almost claustrophobic. All the action, apart from Nell’s initial journey and the epilogue, takes place in either Greythorne Manor or the nearby village of Grimly. I was inspired in part by memories of a long-ago trip to the north of England, but more by my reading of nineteenth-century novels (either those written at the time or published later and set there). I have a long-held fascination with the late nineteenth century – the Victorian/Edwardian eras – which was a time of great technological and social change, and I’m particularly interested in the stories of women, who tend to be written out of a lot of the history and fiction of the time. When I first conceived of Greythorne, I thought of it as a horror story, but it really isn’t – it’s a Gothic suspense in the tradition of Victorian popular fiction, such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre and Dracula, and it actually takes much of its inspiration from adventure writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne.

The village of Grimly was inspired by J. Meade Falkner’s 1898 tale of smugglers, Moonfleet, and my character Arthur Greenslade’s observation that “This here were once a favored spot for smugglers dodging the Revenue men,” is my little tribute to that book.

I have a very clear picture in my head of what Grimly looks like, and I can only hope that’s translated onto the page. When I was writing the first draft, I scribbled a rough map to help me visualise the area and where the major locations were.

My rough map of the Grimly area, with the station, railway line, village, bay and Greythorne Manor (island).
My rough map of the Grimly area, with the station, railway line, village, bay and Greythorne Manor (island).

Likewise, I did a (very) rough sketch of what I thought Greythorne Manor would look like – by which you can tell I’m definitely not a visual artist.

A very rough exterior sketch of Greythorne Manor.
A very rough exterior sketch of Greythorne Manor.

I also sketched out the interior to try to orient myself a bit better, but even so,  the copy-editor pointed out that a rectangular house doesn’t have wings – which required a bit of revision (see my post on the usefulness of copy-editors here). I spent a lot of time looking at the floor plans of old manor houses (how did people do research before the internet?) and reading about the structure and function of Victorian households.

A rough floor plan of Greythorne Manor.
A rough floor plan of Greythorne Manor.

Greythorne‘s setting also gave me the chance to try out some really sensory writing – it’s a place so rich in smells and sounds and even the tangy taste of the salt air that I had a wonderful time describing it. No doubt your visualisation of it will be very different to mine, but I hope it stirs your blood the way it does Nell’s.

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