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Monday, June 15, 2009

Why Yorkshire is the new Scotland!


I recently did an interview for the Single Titles website about my Fortune’s Folly trilogy and the interviewer, Julie Bonello, asked me a particularly interesting question. (All her questions were interesting and thought provoking but this one especially caught my attention.)

It was this:

“The trilogy is set in the fictional Yorkshire village of Fortune’s Folly. Regencies usually take place in London or Bath - what made you decide to create a fictional landscape in this particular British county?”

I’ve set a number of books in Yorkshire. The first was “The Chaperon Bride”, of which I’m very fond, and which was set in the spa town of Harrogate. TCB featured the Welburn Men, a gang of radicals protesting against the establishment of tollhouses on the turnpike roads and the exploitation of travellers by unscrupulous local landowners. They were rick-burners and fence-breakers and I based their exploits on the real live Rebecca Riots.

I picked up the theme of exploitation again in “Unmasked” with those wild highwaywomen, the Glory Girls working to redress the balance of power between the rich and poor. As a continuation of that, the Brides of Fortune trilogy is also set in Yorkshire. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful backdrop for a novel but there were wild and dangerous elements to Yorkshire in the early nineteenth century. In my mind it has some of the same dramatic appeal of Cornwall or Scotland. There is definitely something untamed about the North of England and I wanted to capture that in the books.

I love both Scotland and Cornwall as a setting for books. There’s something about the rugged beauty of the scenery that is reflected in the nature of the characters. The men are strong and the women match them. The country is hard; it throws up challenges. The characters must be tough and equal to the struggle. Yorkshire, like Scotland and Cornwall, mirrors that lush beauty and harsh existence. From wild moorland to rolling green dales from castles perched on crags to Elizabethan manor houses, from quaint fishing villages to ancient abbeys and windswept beaches designed especially for smugglers, the region has it all.

I realise that I am hardly the first to extol the wild beauty of Yorkshire in this way. The Brontes got there first! The passion and bleakness poured out in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre used to scare me when I was younger because it felt so untamed and so dangerous. Now, as a writer, I realise that background and setting can be incredibly powerful tools in creating atmosphere in a story. In the case of some authors the setting becomes so vivid that it is like a character in its own right, complementing the main protagonists, providing a rich backdrop against which they act. It can become so real that you can almost taste it. And yet, it can be very difficult to see exactly how the author has worked his or her magic.

So here are my top ten reasons why Yorkshire is such a fabulous setting for a historical romance, or the case of The Brides of Fortune, a trilogy!

The scenery is stunning!

The history is rich, vivid and inspiring.

It has the oldest castle in the UK – the walls of Richmond Castle date from 1080.

The oldest inn in the county is the Bingley Arms dating from 905AD.


Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire is said to be one of the most haunted houses in the UK.


Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin were both born in Yorkshire and some people claim Robin Hood was too...


The recent adaptation of Mansfield Park was filmed at Newby Hall near Ripon.


Technically it is still legal to shoot a Scotsman in York, but only with a bow and arrow and not on a Sunday but it’s probably best not to try. (That one is definitely my favourite!)


The women are feisty and gorgeous (yes, that is a picture of me LOL!!!)
And the men are… here! Yes, all these actors were born in Yorkshire. I rest my case.


7 comments:

Kristina said...

Bravo! I spent a year living in Yorkshire and LOVED it. I was also in Cornwall in 2007 and can't wait until I can move there (someday, hopefully). Til then, I'll dream about visiting either place again soon.

Anne Whitfield - author said...

As someone who comes from strong Yorkshire roots I can only agree with everything you said. LOL
I've used Yorkshire in 9 books.
It is all that you say it is and more.
Great post.

Kate Hardy said...

What fascinating snippets! (Especially the one about the bow and arrow...)

As for scenery becoming character - absolutely. Egdon Heath. 'Nuff said.

You've made me want to visit Yorkshire again, definitely. I have to visit Richmond, now. (Though Colchester Castle was begun in 1070, so it might have a rival claimant...)

Carol Townend said...

Hi to one Yorkshire lass from another!
Is Richard Armitage from Yorkshire? If not, he should be!
Best wishes
Carol

Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Carol, I think Richard Armitage is from Leicester, which is another part of the country I have happy memories of. But he can, of course, be an honorary Yorkshireman like King Richard III!

I'm so glad that other peole share my love of Yorkshire! Anne, Kristina, thank you for posting! Interesting about Colchester, Kate. I love it when rival towns get hot under the collar about something that happened hundreds of years ago!

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Nicola, I LOVE the trailer for your new book. It's so beautiful! I can't wait to add the series to my collection.

I understand the love for Yorkshire. It's a county Gray & I are looking forward to getting to know better and explore.

Speaking of getting hot under the collar, we enjoy many conversations with our Yorkshire friends/neighbours debating the 'real' roots of Robin Hood...

Ooh, I keep forgetting Richard Armitage is from Leicester, thanks for the reminder. :)

Nicola Cornick said...

Sue, I'm so pleased that you liked the video. Thank you! Also very happy to find another Yorkshire-phile (is that a word?) And yes, you can claim RA!!