Saturday, 24 March 2007

Her Parenthood Assignment: the Setting

And now for my favourite bit – the setting of Her Parenthood Assignment. South Devon is a popular tourist spot, full of holiday cottages and hotels. It's not hard to see why. The scenery is stunning: rolling hills, dramatic coastlines and chocolate-box villages.

The lovely town of Dartmouth is mentioned frequently in the book as it is the nearest real town to my fictional setting. This is the view from Dartmouth over the river to Kingswear.

I've been visiting the area for more than 20 years, first on family holidays (my father had a boat moored in the River Dart during my teenage years) and now to visit family who have moved down there.

The first location in the book, where Gaby finds herself on the wrong side of the river, is based on Greenway Pier. It was a favourite spot of another writer – Agatha Christie owned Greenway, a fantastic white house on the hillside. It's now owned by the national trust and open to the public.

When I wrote the opening scene, I had an idea that they should be a bell to call the ferry. When I went searching for pictures of the area in my local library, I discovered there was actually a bell on Greenaway Pier. A fact I had long forgotten but had reached out of my subconscious when I started to write. I wonder what else is tucked away up there that I've forgotten about.

The village of Lower Hadwell is based on the real village of Dittisham on the banks of the River Dart, just across the river from Greenway. It has a horribly steep hill – so bad you have to turn round and walked backwards to stop your calves aching when you get near the top. I spent many happy hours on the pontoons catching crabs with fishing lines baited with strips of bacon and now when we visit, my children do the same.

As for the Old Boathouse, it's a fictional house, based on a real cottage I saw on a flyer for English Country Cottages, a holiday-home letting company. Click here if you want to see the details. I'm almost tempted to rent it for a week and live in Luke and Gaby's house. It is actually in Stoke Gabriel, further upstream from Dittisham. In my imagination, I made it larger, further away from the town and with a jetty out front. Initially Gaby was going to be called Emma but, after I found the picture of the boathouse in Stoke Gabriel, I changed her name to Gabrielle. It seemed fitting.


Jessica Raymond said...

Nice house!!

Jess x

Phillipa said...

Fiona - what a lovely setting. I went to Stoke Gabriel, years ago when my dd was a toddler. I must go back there - not surprised you chose it for your new book. Look forward to seeing you at the RNA summer party. have you got that speech ready?:)