London: The Ideal Setting
Written by Carrie Vaughn
Another one of those questions authors get asked a lot: Do you travel to the places where you set your books for research? For me, the answer is yes, if I can. I always discover great information and details when I visit a place, things I could never get from a book or website.
At which point I should say, I didn’t decide to set Kitty Steals the Show in London just to give myself an excuse to visit one of my favorite cities in the world. I had lots of great reasons for setting the story in London. The event the novel focuses on is the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies. What better way to explore the paranormal in the rest of the world than to go to one of the great international cities? People from all over the world come to London, and have been coming to London for hundreds of years—thousands, really. Celts, Romans, Saxons, Normans, all the way down to the time when Britain ruled the seas and built a global Empire, and London was the center of it all. There may not be a British Empire anymore, but London is still a crossroads, still a global capital.
And London is recognizable. Someone who’s never been to London, but has maybe read a lot of British novels and watched a lot of BBC America, would recognize London if they suddenly landed in the middle of it. Visiting it for the first time is to experience déjà vu—does that row of townhouses look like something out of Sherlock Holmes? Is that the same Canary Wharf from Doctor Who? Why yes, yes it is. It’s not just the big landmarks that are instantly recognizable—Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and the rest. It’s the whole feel of the city. It might be a hundred-plus years on, but walk down Oxford Street and you know this is the same Oxford Street Charles Dickens walked down, back in his day.
By setting my conference, and my novel, in London, I could give my supernatural world a sense history and diversity that I haven’t been able to delve into before in the Kitty novels. I could tell stories, like the one about London’s vampires and werewolves working together to save the city during the Blitz, that I couldn’t tell anywhere else. I suppose I could have picked any major city to host my fictional conference. But London seemed such an obvious choice.
Plus, you know—I got to visit my favorite city in the world and call it work. There I was, strolling through Hyde Park at sunset, taking notes for the major scene I wanted to set there. Totally work. Ducking into the National Gallery the hour before closing just because I could, then sitting on the steps to watch Trafalgar Square at evening rush hour? Yup, that was work. The West End ghost tour with a stop in a pub for a pint at the end of it? Work, I tell you!
You see the sacrifices I make for my art.
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