by Kate James
For many years, before I started editing romance novels, I worked as a travel editor (and occasional writer). I travelled when I could, but I mostly learned about far-away places by reading about other people’s travels.
Sometime it was hard not to get swept away by the setting and forget I was supposed to be checking the practical details—until the day I told my dad I was editing an African trekking guide, and he mused: ‘You know, if you send someone in the wrong direction they could get EATEN BY A LION.’ That image has stuck with me.
My background in travel editing has served me surprisingly well as a romance editor. I’ll always notice if something seems off about a description of a locale or culture; and I have enormous amounts of reference material on my bookshelves…
One of the first Escape titles I worked on was VK Black’s Unexpected Places, which was set partly on a fictitious island off the coast of Sri Lanka. Victoria had done her research, and her descriptions of that part of the world were spot on, but we still ended up in some fascinating back-and-forth about aspects of culture, food and dress, which led to some changes that made us both happy.
I still love a well-described setting in a romance novel—but that doesn’t mean the characters have to travel to the other side of the world. If you get the feel for small-town New South Wales just right, the setting will be just as interesting a part of the book as if you’d set it in Shanghai or St Petersburg.
Which leads me to the next series we’re going to be posting here on the Escapades. I’ve asked our writers to tell me about the places where their books are set. What led them to the town or country? Did they go there themselves, or was it all armchair travel? How did the setting advance the story, or reflect the internal journeys of the characters? What makes a setting or place romantic; do you prefer a hot beach or a snowed-in chalet?
Strap yourselves in—throughout April we’re going to be crossing the globe from Alaska to Nepal, Scotland to Mexico…and yes, to rural New South Wales too. And seeing as I’ve shared my holiday snaps, I’ve asked our authors to do the same. Enjoy!