Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Clare Chase: Settings in romantic suspense

Today we welcome Clare Chase to the blog.

I’ve always found novels with a strong sense of place compelling, and been fascinated by the powerful effect setting can have on an unfolding story. Of course, it’s a crucial aspect of all forms of fiction, but where suspense is involved, the right setting can help the writer in all sorts of ways.
A character’s immediate surroundings – the house they live in, for instance – can point to a person who’s off balance. Suspense builds as the reader anticipates the effect their skewed world view might have on developments. You don’t have to go as far as Dickens went with Miss Havisham to introduce unease.
Wider setting is also a huge bonus when creating mood and tension. Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn comes to mind. Mary Yellan’s awful journey in appalling weather, from her familiar village, to the remote moorland home of her aunt and uncle, remains vivid. The reader is immediately sucked into a threatening and oppressive atmosphere.
And then there are the physical practicalities of a location. Because Mary’s geographically so far away from help, and the landscape around her is so harsh and unforgiving, we’re intensely conscious of her isolation.
In my own debut novel, You Think You Know Me, I used two locations: London and the Lake District.
 
When the novel begins, Anna, the heroine, has just moved to the capital. London was a good location on practical grounds. It allowed her plenty of glamorous opportunities to pursue her career as a freelance journalist, and was a realistic setting for a story focussed on crime in the art world. But beyond the practical, it was also perfect in terms of atmosphere. I love the bustle of London, the frenetic pace, the crowds and the buzz. And as Anna’s caught up in a passionate love affair, pulled along by excitement, uncertainty and the first hints of danger, this pacey backdrop worked.
And then, as the mystery deepens, her desire to find out the truth leads her to the Lakes. You Think You Know Me is set in winter, and Anna finds herself driving through dark, deserted lanes, caught in torrential rain, her mobile dropping in and out of coverage. I’m always staggered by the beauty of the area when I visit, but on dark, stormy days, the awe-inspiring masses of mountains like Skiddaw and Blencathra become menacing. The hairpin bends, steep inclines and the narrowness of the roads mean any escape is going to have to happen at an agonisingly slow pace. What’s more, there are plenty of places where there’s no mobile coverage at all, so calling for help can be tantalisingly out of reach.
 
My next novel is the start of a mystery series, and has a Cambridge setting. I find the city endlessly intriguing, but realise there are dangers with writing about somewhere I know well. I need to make sure I can still see what’s unique about the city, even though I’ve become an insider. Luckily, Cambridge is full of surprises, and sometimes things that shock, so it’s not hard to see it afresh, even after all these years.

Biog:
Clare Chase writes fast-paced romantic mysteries, inspired by what makes people tick. She reads everything from Jilly Cooper to Sue Grafton, and finds romance complements crime perfectly, doubling the intrigue.
Clare wrote dodgy whodunnits in primary school, read English at London University, and honed her creative writing skills working in PR.
In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, cooking and wandering round the pubs and galleries of Cambridge, where she lives with her husband and teenage daughters.
 
 
Links:
Twitter: @ClareChase_


Thank you, Clare!

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write an article for the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com
 



18 comments:

Clare Chase said...

Thank you so much for having me on the RNA blog, Elaine and Natalie – it’s really lovely to be here!

Berni Stevens said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Berni Stevens said...

Fascinating post, Clare. I always love reading about the reasoning behind a plot! Good luck with your book - I loved it.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post. I always find a definite setting helps with atmosphere and character in my own writing, as well as letting me see the story unfold before me. I love both the Lakes and Cambridge. Mixed feelings about London, though. Good luck with your novel. It sounds intriguing.
Rebecca Holmes

Clare Chase said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments, Berni and Rebecca.

Margaret Kaine said...


I haven't yet read your novel, Clare, but having read your interesting interview, it's definitely on my list to buy. Wishing you mega sales with it.

Jane Lovering said...

I love reading books with a great sense of place - it's like going on holiday without having to pack or make arrangements for the cat. Looking forward to reading your take on the Lakes, Clare!

Clare Chase said...

Thanks so much, Margaret and Jane. Good point about a hassle-free version of going on holiday! The sash windows give our house a rather al fresco feel, so I might hunt out a book set in the tropics…

Rosie Dean said...

I love the sense of place Daphne du Maurier gives.

Even in fantasy, who could read any of the Harry Potter stories and not get a sense of Hogwarts or Diagon Alley?

Good post.

Clare Chase said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Rosie – completely agree re Harry Potter!

Sarah Waights said...

I'm with Rosie on the Daphne du Maurier... my happiest day in years was floating down the very river du Maurier described in Frenchman's Creek (in a boat, obviously), reading the very same. The setting is like another major character in the book. Even a really well described and atmospheric house can anchor a book. Manderley is the classic example Oops, back to du Maurier again. Great post Clare. Best of luck with your book sales. I have it on my list. x

Isabella Connor said...

The setting is so important. If I can't identify with the location of a story, I'm afraid I will often give it a miss. Great subject, Clare.

Clare Chase said...

Thanks so much for your comments! I love Frenchman’s Creek – must have been perfect enjoying it in that situation, Sarah. And I’m really glad you liked the topic, Isabella! I feel just the same about setting.

Sheryl Browne said...

Oooh, wow! Well, it's certainly made me think more about how I can use location in my psychological thrillers, Clare. Thanks so much for the prompt! PS. Did I mention I love your cover? Fabulous post. Thanks, too, to the RNA for sharing.

Clare Chase said...

Thanks so much, Sheryl! I really love the cover too – I’m so grateful to the wonderful Berni Stevens for such a fantastic design!

Karen Aldous said...

A fab post Clare and I'm totally with you where a setting and sense of place is concerned. Your book does sound intriging and will go on my tbr list! Good luck xx

Clare Chase said...

Thanks so much for your good wishes, Karen! I'm really glad you like the sound of You Think You Know Me. I plan to treat myself to The Chateau, and love the sound of the locations you use! Xx

Sue Fortin said...

I always enjoy reading about settings I'm familiar with, it gives a real sense of being there.

One of the reasons I'm really looking forward to reading your novel, Clare.

Sue
x