Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Writer As Travel Guide

Like most people who write, I live in two places.

That is, I live here, in the real world, and there, in my imaginary world. I know - sounds pretentious - but there is a truth in it. Within my imaginary world, there are towns and cities and rooms and alleys and everything that you get in the real world. And there are also places that you couldn't find in the real world.

Darker places, usually; at least for me. A club where an angel presides over the most debauched acts. A farm whose livestock is far from usual and far more dangerous. A hotel room with an unseen guest who has a taste for innocence.

Part of this world even has a name. I find that I am writing a series of Tales about a town called Belmouth (friends have spotted the aural connection to Hellmouth, but it never occurred to me when I named the place and, despite what happens there, they're wrong). Belmouth is just an ordinary run-down seaside town in England, not dissimilar to Weymouth on the Dorset coast, a place I know and love. Except that Weymouth never (to my knowledge) hosted a Storytelling Festival where the stories came true. Nor has it played host to a theatre company who could be the prototypes, the origin, of vampire stories. And I doubt if Weymouth ever attracted the attention of creatures older than history.

I don't know why I like Belmouth so much, but I'm slowly building up a whole mythology based around it - through novellas, short stories and at least one novel. I can visit other places from time to time, but I'm often drawn back there. Recently, I was trying to make a story idea work and it just wouldn't form, wouldn't play ball, until I realised that it took place in Belmouth. Suddenly, everything fell into place.

Not that anyone other than friends have seen Belmouth yet. It's one of those hidden gems of the English countryside that (I'm hoping) will one day win favour with visitors. But in the meantime, I'll keep going back and discovering new corners to explore.