I like to set my books in real places, finding inspiration from the settings, buildings and history that is on offer. Oranges for Christmas is set in Berlin in 1961 because I wanted to write about the Berlin Wall. The Sleeping Angel is set in and around Highgate Cemetery in North London because I wanted a Gothic feel to the novel and Highgate Cemetery offers a wealth of history and some suitably creepy urban legends. Scarborough Fair (currently with the proofreaders) is set in the seaside town of Scarborough in the north of England, about 240 miles north of London. Beautiful when the weather’s good, but prone to sudden changes (we once had to shelter from a hail storm on the beach in the middle of August), it’s a place which I’ve visited many times and which I find very inspirational.
When you stand on the sand of the South Bay in Scarborough you get a fantastic glimpse through the history of the town. To the south, you can see the Victorian Spa, the grand Regency and Victorian houses up on the Esplanade and, in front of you, the towering Grand Hotel and the 1920’s Futurist Cinema.
Straight ahead on the prom are the amusement arcades and tourist shops selling buckets and spades and all the paraphernalia for a day on the beach; to your right is the rocky headland, on top of which sits the ruined medieval remains of Scarborough Castle.
In one sweep you can take in medieval, Victorian, 1920’s and the developments of the sixties and seventies. Elsewhere in the town you can enjoy the Edwardian splendour of Peasholm Park,
or stroll around the harbour and explore the maze of streets in the old town.
So it struck me that Scarborough is a place where the historical and contemporary sit very comfortably side by side, each period of history having left its mark. And that’s how I came to write a story that has both a Victorian setting and a contemporary one. I wanted to try and capture the excitement of Victorian ladies visiting the seaside for the first time when Scarborough was a much-sought-after resort, with a modern-day thriller. The result was Scarborough Fair.