Hi and welcome to my blog!
One of the questions I have been asked recently, as my second novel in the Mark King Series, ‘Hit Back’ is poised to be launched, is how I find locations in the books! Rather than respond individually, I thought it might be best to answer in a blog post.
Locations are a really important part of writing, especially in thriller fiction. Some writers find it easier to make up places; street names, cities, counties, countries, fantasy worlds etc. For me, it was really important, despite my work being fiction, for the details to be factual. One of my favourite writers, Scott Mariani, writes fiction and uses a large number of real places as settings, one of which, Hamble, is a 5 minute walk from where I live. Naturally, as soon as I saw this in one of Scott’s books, I immediately put the book in the car and drove to find the actual location and read at least half the book, sat in the very spot, perhaps even where Scott himself had sat when he wrote it!
The importance of real locations for Mark King for me, meant a LOT of travelling. Now, I haven’t been to each and every single location I use, although in a much later book (details to be revealed at a later date), Italy, and more precisely, Rome, feature very heavily. I spent 10 day soaking up the Roman and Venetian landscape and returned with over 1,000 photographs, many of which feature in the book.
Mark King is lucky, he has the lifestyle I think many of us would love to live (minus the killing and being hunted) as he gets to travel around the world, looking at some of the most amazing places, but just because you haven’t been there, doesn’t mean you can’t still use them.
Research Is Key!
Several of the locations I use, I’ve never been to before, and so research is key.
I researched EVERYTHING. The weather at the time of year I was writing in, the kinds of sounds around those areas, are they populated, if so, by how many at different times of year. What does it look like in every single location? How are they locals dressed compared to tourists? Would I stand out if I went there and how would I need to dress to blend in? What can I smell? Are there restaurants, cafes, bars? Can I smell the food mixed with people’s aftershaves and perfumes?
In Italy, this was fantastic because I was able to describe all of those things and more. It made it so that if one of my readers took this book with them to that country, they could find the same places and, as they read, they could see what Mark could see and hear what he could hear, eat where he ate, and drink where he drank. All these things add to the believability factor, despite the story itself being fictitious.
Scouting Locations From Home
Google Earth and Street View can be perfect for this. It gives you as a writer, the opportunity to visit places all over the world without leaving the comfort of your writing area. This helped me immensely in researching locations, especially for chase or combat scenes that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit, be it for reasons of money, childcare or other commitments. It saved an incredible amount of time also, which meant I could devote more time to actually writing. Let’s face it, as writers, that’s what we want to be doing!
A Word Of Caution
Using locations has also got to be done carefully. To enhance the realism element, and draw the reader in and make them want to continue to read or buy your next book, you need to keep in mind the realism. You cannot just describe what you see; I like to create a cinematic context to my writing, by writing as though it were for a film. There has to be a REASON why a character would go to a location. Are they looking for something or someone? Are they hiding?
What is the reason they are there? Defining that will enable you to work out where your character (s) need to go and what they will see. For example, if Mark King was going to Rome, what would his reason be for going there? If he is following a clue about the whereabouts of someone he needs to find, perhaps he would want to keep lo-key and blend in, not visiting largely populated attractions and keeping to the lesser visited areas of the city where he is unlikely to be spotted. If he was there on holiday however, you would see him at the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
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For more information on P.S Bridge, the Mark King Series or his new thriller novel ‘Hit Back’, visit