Lady Evelyn Carlisle has barely arrived in London when familial duty calls her away again. Her cousin Gemma is desperate for help with her ailing mother before her imminent wedding, which Evelyn knew nothing about! Aunt Agnes in tow, she journeys to Scotland, expecting to find Malmo Manor in turmoil. To her surprise, her Scottish family has been keeping far more secrets than the troubled state of their matriarch. Adding to the tension in the house a neighbour has opened his home, Elderbrooke Park, as a retreat for artistic veterans of the Great War. This development does not sit well with everyone in the community. Is the suspicion towards the residents a catalyst for murder? A tragedy at Elderbrooke Park’s May Day celebration awakens Evelyn’s sleuthing instinct, which is strengthened when the story of another unsolved death emerges, connected to her own family. What she uncovers on her quest to expose the truth will change several lives forever, including her own.
With the shadow of history looming over her, Evelyn must trust in her instinct and ability to comb through the past to understand the present, before the murderer can stop her and tragedy strikes again.
I’m welcoming Malia Zaidi to booksaremycwtches today with a fascinating post about how an author decides on the setting of their novel.
Writing What You Know
I have heard the advice “Write what you know” from many well-known authors, and I am sure, if you are interested in writing yourself, so have you. Though to an extent, I agree, it does help to write about a subject or a setting familiar to you, so much of the writing process takes you almost unconsciously into realms of the unknown. Certainly, this is the case when writing fiction. Part of the pleasure of writing is escaping into the unknown and exploring what will come of the leap. You can lose yourself in a realms and characters’ minds of your own making. A writer of fiction will revel in the bliss of allowing his or her imagination to stretch to places they have never been and faces they will never encounter in real life. Of this, great heroes can be born, the worst villains, or simply very human characters with very human problems readers can identify with.
That being so, I must acknowledge it also depends on the genre in which you write. In terms of fantasy or science fiction, you are likely creating a whole new world with your imagination, while historical or literary fiction do tend to require adherence to a recognizable reality and significant research can be demanded. For my own books, I have tried to find a sort of middle ground between writing what I know and allowing my creative energies free reign. I write historical mysteries and thus a considerable amount of research and a grounding in fact is necessary. The characters are entirely of my own making and the setting – though I have visited it before – is essentially unknown to me the way it was in the period my novels are set in, the 1920s. The Golden Hour is largely set in Scotland, and though I was lucky to visit the village of Falkland and St. Andrews to form an idea of both places in my mind, the atmosphere of life there a century ago was not entirely accessible to me. Nonetheless, I had studied this time period before for my previous books and could blend what I knew with what I had seen and the workings of my imagination to craft what I hope is a believable setting. My prior research and eagerness to absorb and learn as much as I could about this time gave me a grounding which I could use to place my story, a story that was still unfolding in my mind as I wrote it. Striking a balance between the known and leaping into the exciting black hole of mystery involved in the writing process is what makes it so enjoyable to me.
In the end of the day, the important thing is simply to sit down and write and be consistent. If writing what you know helps you to get a story down on paper (or rather Word Doc), do it. If you need the unknown to spur your imagination to mysterious places, ignore any rules and just go for it. That’s the beauty of writing and of storytelling, there are no limits.
About the author
Malia Zaidi is the author of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.