Four real places that influenced A Map of the Sky
I'm going to do a quick round up and share a bit of behind-the-scenes detail about some of these gorgeous locations.
First up, it's worth saying that getting the right location for a book is really important to me. A while back, I wrote an article for Women Writers about how I think places should have just as much personality as characters in a novel.
I love the Yorkshire coastline. I love the brooding, stormy skies; the dark, unpredictable North Sea; the windswept cliff tops high above nesting gannets and gulls. Its character absolutely set the tone for A Map of the Sky, particularly in the central quest to create a map that truly reflects all of that depth and potential for adventure.
And so here are four real places that one way or another ended up inspiring A Map of the Sky.
I utterly love this seaside town, enough to devote an entire chapter to it. From the ruined castle on the headland to the lobster cages on the harbour front, Kit's trip to Scarborough was a pretty faithful recreation of my own research visit (although I gave them better weather than I experienced that day - I actually found myself at a wine-tasting event in the pelting rain in the castle grounds!)
Scarborough has inspired others in the past too, and I tried to include a couple of nods to this history. There's a mention of the Bronte sisters, because Anne Bronte loved this place, so much that the end of Agnes Grey is set there (it's never named, but if you know Scarborough then it's unmistakeable) and she is buried there. And the chapter title 'Between the Salt Shore and the Sea Strand' of course comes from the song Scarborough Fair, which Catherine Fisher sings to herself on the beach.
The Cleveland Way
There's something so evocative about ancient paths that have been walked for centuries. A good chunk of the Cleveland Way is right on the edge of the cliff top (which I've learned is super exciting to an adventurous toddler who just wants to climb over the fence) which makes for both spectacular scenery and a very handy plot feature (no spoilers though!)
The RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs is incredible for sea bird colonies. And when you've written a character like Bert Sindlesham, who's an avid birdwatcher trying to escape professional embarrassment, it's pretty useful to be able to refer to the actual wildlife he'd be able to spot.
Having spent all that time researching the nesting spots of puffins and guillemots, this summer I was able to go and see them myself.
And I know I've harped on about this before, but if you haven't already you should read about the BLACK BROWED ALBATROSS THAT APPEARED THIS SUMMER and would have brought tears of joy to Bert's eyes.
Now there's no judgement here if you don't know A Map of the Sky word for word, but ten points if you spotted that Filey does not get a mention in the book!
In its place is the fictional Scar Bay, drawing its name from places like Ravenscar and Scarborough (I'm a huge advocate for authentic naming conventions of invented places and will extensively research Viking, Anglo Saxon or Welsh place name components to get it sounding just right, but that's a whole other topic for another post).
Scar Bay is based on real beaches on the Yorkshire coastline, including Filey, with its dark sand, scattered pebbles, and spectacular views of the North Sea. The area is known for ammonites, which Kit searches for in a cave on the beach, based on a real cave further up the coast with the excellent name Boggle Hole.
I hope, somewhere among these words and pictures, you've picked up a sense of the beautiful drama of this place. The scenery on this stretch of coast looking out to the North Sea is nothing short of stunning, and I encourage you to go and see it for yourself if you possibly can.
And if you'd like to read about it (staying at home and reading is the 2020 version of exploring, after all) then you can pick up a copy of A Map of the Sky at the click of a button! Or watch this short video from Trip Fiction, a website that's all about novels with realistic and evocative settings (one of my secret goals was to get my book featured on Trip Fiction so I'm pretty pleased about this!).
You can see the full photo series in my Instagram highlights or on my Facebook page. There's a picture and a quote to go with each chapter of the book, effectively creating the illustrated version of A Map of the Sky!