Monday, 12 February 2018

Walking The Girl from Simon's Bay

How do you get to know the setting for your book?
You walk it!

That's right, and here's a map we produced to show the myriad alleys and steps that wind through the naval port of Simon's Town, routes that Louise and David followed many times throughout my novel, The Girl from Simon's Bay.

Rectory Steps, Alfred Lane, Drostdy Steps... the town is laced with hidden and fascinating walkways. Many of them date from the era when Simon's Town was a British naval base, and home to the Royal Navy's South Atlantic fleet. You can still see the Victorian stonework, and the carefully constructed drainage channels at the side of the alleys.

We photographed most of them and then superimposed them on a map of the town centre so that while I was writing, I had a visual reminder of what my characters would see about them, the nature of the path beneath their feet (stones? gravel? paved?) and the steepness of the gradient. I contrived routes that would allow one person to escape the view of another, I arranged unexpected meetings, I made sure that Louise's father, Solly, who had bad knees, only met his daughter half way along the route between the Royal Naval Hospital and their home. I didn't want to aggravate his knees by making him climb too many steps! And I traced a path across the mountainside that Louise followed when she ran home during a massive wildfire.

As I strode, the heat and crackle of the fire faded behind me. The path was clear, although lone rabbits and whole families of mice were using it to flee the flames, scuttling past me.
I looked back.
The smoke was spreading a mantle over the surrounding mountains.
A wavering line of orange edged closer to the upper wards of the hospital.

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