It’s always a pleasure to have guests on the blog and Samantha Tonge is no different. Here to launch her latest novel GAME OF SCONES, Sam is talking about settings.
Most of the settings of my novels are based on places I know. In Doubting Abbey, Applebridge Hall has similarities with a stately home local to me, that I visited whilst doing research for my fictional building’s interior and many times when the children were small. I lived in Paris as a young woman, so had many memories to draw on for my next book, From Paris with Love. And Mistletoe Mansion is set in Harpenden, a quaint Hertfordshire village I grew up in. As for Game of Scones, the story takes place on the Greek island of Kos. I went there with a group of girlfriends years ago. Plus my husband and I honeymooned on Zante.
So for me, I have so far balked at setting a book somewhere I have absolutely no experience of. Granted, my memories of Greece may not be sharp now, but I still have deep-seated sensual memories– the garlicky smells and sea breeze sounds, the rich taste of the food, the vibrant colour of the sea. From Paris I recall the stuffy odour of the underground, the universal soundtrack of busy tourists speaking in different languages and the delicious sweet smells wafting out of bakeries.
For me this basic, hands-on understanding of a location is important. I might get the overall “feel” of an alien place wrong, if I just go by information on the internet. Although online resources are fantastic for filling in the detail, and I don’t know how authors used to manage before the invention of the World Wide Web.
Before I became published, I had a number of editorial reports on my first novels done, and one pointed out that my settings just weren’t clear enough. I had a strong vision in my head of say a main character’s flat, but wasn’t transferring that to the page. So now I realize how important the smaller bits of information can be – some crumbling brickwork or the exact shade of that magnolia wallpaper. And the beauty of the internet is that the building blocks of your setting can be easily enriched. Thanks to photos and videos and tourist spot descriptions, you can create a realistic vision of a place you don’t actually have day-to-day knowledge of.
For Game of Scones I’ve read tourists’ reviews ad nauseam and studied town maps until I’ve got a headache; have scrutinized photo after photo of local food; then there’s hours of Googling the fragrances of certain local flowers and trawling gardening sites to find out exactly when they bloom. Plus I listen on Youtube to hear how a Greek person speaking English really does sound and also I studied local architecture, to get my descriptions of towns just right.
Doing all of this, in advance, helps the story just spill onto the page and hopefully, by the end of the book, the reader really has become immersed in your fictional world. However, by the same token, I try not to become too hung up on getting every single detail right. After all, I’m a fiction writer, not a tourist guide.
Wait a minute, though. Thinking about it, I did once write a book based in a country – and era – totally foreign to me. Lunchdate with a Tombrobber is set in Ancient Egypt. It is chicklit meets Carry on Cleo, and in my opinion my best book. Sadly no publisher agrees with me and it doesn’t fit neatly into any genre! I had huge fun researching it, but didn’t get lazy about the detail. In fact I found a wonderful Egyptologist online, who agreed to answer any questions for £1 a pop, via PayPal. Is setting as important in historical fiction, as no one can say that they’ve experienced it and that your version is wrong? Probably more so, as you have to get the reader’s imagination working hard too.
Some people say “write what you know” and to a certain extent, I agree. However, I’m not one for setting anyone – myself included – boundaries, so who knows… Perhaps in the future, I’ll set a chicklit novel on Mars and find out if that really is where men come from!
Game of Scones
A story of icing and flour…and how love doesn’t always go to plan!
Growing up, Pippa Pattinson’s summers were spent in the idyllic Greek island fishing village of Taxos. There she spent many long hazy days determinedly ignoring thoughts of the life her parents had mapped out for her (a dreary-but-secure accounting job and obligatory sensible husband!) Instead she daydreamed of running her own tea shop – serving the perfect scones –with mocha-eyed childhood friend Niko by her side…
Arriving back in Taxos for the first time in years, with suave boyfriend Henrik, Pippa barely recognises the tired little town – but is relieved to catch glimpses of the quaint, charming village she’s always loved. Together Niko and Pippa put together a proposal to save Taxos from tourist-tastic ruin, and at the heart of their plan is Pippa’s dream project – The Tastiest Little Teashop in Taxos. It’s time for Pippa to leave her London life behind and dust off her scone recipe that’s guaranteed to win over both locals and visitors. And amidst the rolling pins and raisins, it seems romance is blossoming where she’s least expecting it…
If you’re a fan of Lindsey Kelk or Lucy Diamond then don’t hesitate to step into Samantha Tonge’s truly delightful tea shop.
Samantha lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and two cats who think they are dogs. Along with writing, her days are spent cycling, willing cakes to rise and avoiding housework. A love of fiction developed as a child, when she was known for reading Enid Blyton books in the bath. A desire to write bubbled away in the background whilst she pursued other careers, including a fun stint working at Disneyland Paris. Formally trained as a linguist, Samantha now likes nothing more than holing herself up in the spare room, in front of the keyboard. Writing romantic comedy novels and short stories is her passion.
Samantha has sold over 80 short stories to mainstream women’s magazines. Her debut romantic comedy novel from CarinaUK Harlequin, bestselling “Doubting Abbey“, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award, 2014. Its fun sequel is From Paris With Love. Mistletoe Mansion is a fun standalone Christmas novel.