Thursday, 8 January 2015

Keeping It Real

My second novel is called When Skies Are Grey. It is set in London between the late 1950s through to the 70s.

Being a mere slip of a girl I've had to do a lot of research about 1950s life to add authenticity to the story. Although my setting is in the part of west London I grew up in I've had to make a decision as to how authentic the details of the setting/location actually are.

I wrote the first couple of drafts almost blind. That is, I threw in street names that didn't actually exist but when it came to more well known places I had to locate them correctly.

So, as I started writing the final draft, I needed to go and do some research. My research into the local area showed me see that I hadn't remembered my childhood neighbourhood as well as I thought I did. Then came the big decision. After browsing ordinance survey maps of 1950s west London, do I keep the novel real by using actual street names or do I stick with the fictional ones I used in early drafts?

Decisions, decisions.

As a reader I like the idea of being able to relate to a place in the world I know by seeing them appear on the page exactly as I remember them. But I also forgive writers who use local information to suit their story.

Which do you prefer?

I suppose the answer will come to me as I write. Most importantly is that I've written a story that people want to read. As long as the location suits my storyline and plot, I'm hoping that will win my reader over.

So - it's back to the editing. Here goes!


  1. Wow, you've been working hard, Fran. Congratulations on finishing your novel and starting another one! And a book trailer too. I'm impressed. Way to go!! As for real street names it probably doesn't matter (wouldn't bother me to read). London in the 50s would be so much fun to research. I wonder if Elvis Presley was big over there then.

  2. Thanks Sharon - I won't worry about the street names. I'm sure Elvis was big then. My book is all about jazz music though. Also discovered a lot of films were shot in that area and lots of celebs visited it - including Mohammed Ali (that occasion features in my book so I do keep it real in some ways).

  3. Hi Fran, when I read, I don't really focus on the street names. But I have used real street names in my novel. It did mean that I had to be sure that the description really fit (like in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code) and what I wanted to happen in that street could really work. I guess if a writer uses fictional streets and fictional places such details don't matter. My husband was very patient (and useful) when we were traipsing around London and role playing - much to the amusement of onlookers (nosey parkers). Wishing you lots of fun with your second novel!

  4. Okay - so the novel is written (need to get some reader feedback before any last edits)! I've used real names so descriptions are as true as they can be considering the era and what research I was able to do. I just hope people like the story, regardless off the street names. Nice to hear from you Nicola :)