It’s been a holiday weekend here in the UK and I’ve spent the time redecorating my kitchen and dining room, which is why I have paint in my hair and was using the washing machine as a breakfast table this morning. I’m childishly proud of the fact that I painted two ceilings – not well, but what the heck – it’s not the Sistine Chapel.
The house I’m living in now is over 100 years old. It was semi derelict when I bought it, but only five minutes away from the ocean – who could resist? While I had all the major work done by professionals, it has more of my blood, sweat and tears in it than any other place I’ve ever lived. Every wall in the house has been painted by me, and I’ve also tiled, gardened and put furniture together.
Poised at the top of a ladder, wondering what I was going to blog about, as well as musing on what we put into the places where we live, made me think about houses in books, and how often they have a pivotal role.
For Jane Austen property was a really big thing, the measure of a man’s worth and his value as husband material, as well as being the setting for the book, so much so that Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey are actually the book’s titles.
I would guess the most famous literary house is probably Manderly. Most people can quote the first line of that book, even if they have never read Rebecca.
I’ve just completed a manuscript for the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s scheme – unpublished writers have to submit a typescript every year, which gets you a crique from a published writer who is an expert in their field. As Mai pointed out the other day, having something you need to work towards focuses the mind and makes you produce your book a year, even for the unpublished. That book, Never Coming Home is a new departure for me – it’s turned out very dark, straying into Lisa Gardner and PJ Tracy territory, so I am wondering what my reviewer will make of it. The first thing that Devlin, the hero, sees about Kaz, my heroine, is her house, a place that I invented in Chelsea, in London, and he uses it as a yardstick to assess what sort of a person she is.
We’ve had so many wonderful historical novelists blog with us recently that it has inspired me to do something totally frivolous (and I hope fast) for a complete change of pace. I’m researching for a gothic style romance set in late Victorian times. It’s set then, so that I have the chance to create a house in the style of Augustus Pugin, who worked on the Houses of Parliament and William Burges, who was responsible for much of the interior of Cardiff Castle, which is gothic fantasy of a high order. The Pre- Raphaelite painters will probably get in there somewhere too. I hope I manage to get away from the research long enough to write the actually book.
I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s favorite fictional houses or places they have set, or would like to set, a book. Have you got a dream house just dying to get built? Doing it on paper is really cheap, and you don’t even get paint in your hair.