I was just away in south Warwickshire for a couple of days and whilst driving I spotted a sign for the village I’d used as the basis for Priors Allenford in my first novel A Shadowed Livery. It was particularly coincidental because I’d just heard the novel had just been re-released (on pre-order) through my new publisher, Sapere Books.
I’d never been before, simply identified it on a map as being roughly the right area and explored a little through Google StreetView. Mostly, I’d made it up and as the novel was set in 1938 it would, inevitably, be much different today. However, I decided to make a small detour to take a look. What a delight. At the centre of the village was a pub. The pub I’d used as my imagined ‘The Victory’ where James Given stayed. On the outside, it looked much as I thought it would, as it almost certainly looked 80 years ago – more or less.
On the inside, though, it was very different. Now a plush modern eatery with a smart restaurant, shabby chic furnishings and young bar staff in black uniforms, it was a million miles from the one I’d written.
But this is the joy of writing. Pulling an image from somewhere then stretching and expanding it to fit the world we’re trying to create. It doesn’t matter if it’s real in the details – except in our readers’ heads.
Sometimes, of course, it does matter, for example when we’re writing about real events occurring in a real place but even then, unless everyone is aware of how a place looks, liberties can be taken.
I enjoyed my time in ‘The Victory’, partly due to the sunshine in its beer garden and partly due to the excellent meal we returned for later, but mainly because I could still see James Given sipping his Vimto in front of the fire, chatting to Cudlip, and climbing the rickety stairs to his bedroom.