My novel, The Name and the Key, is set in a fictional universe that really is an echo of our own. I wanted the setting to be plausible and realistic for the reader in order to accomplish the suspension of disbelief integral to speculative fiction. I've taken inspiration from real-life places I've loved in order to create the world of The Name and the Key.Mariner
Mariner is the main setting in the novel where the protagonist Lily Camlo lives with her family.
The Lower Quarter faded into the dark rocky cliffs on which Mariner was built, as well as the ancient stone wall that surrounded the town for centuries. It was a strange, smoky smudge of a city...until you got to Highgate, that is. The streets criss-crossed each other as you climbed further up the wall of rock, and as soon as you passed through the barbican, you ended up on the white-stoned esplanade that circled the rosy-hued homes of Mariner's upper echelons.
--From The Name and the Key
The Lower Quarter
|South Street Seaport|
Images from Wikimedia Commons (I, II)
There's a unique buzz of life that I find permeates seaports and coastal towns, and I'm sure the ocean plays a major part of it. But there's something about older buildings and great ships against the lovely background of the sea that gets me in the heart every time. I LOVE places like this.
So it's only natural that Mariner would take a good deal of influence from South Street Seaport. The larger ships are docked here (clipper ships, schooners, sloops, etc.) which has helped me visualize the kind of ships that are mentioned in the novel: the Djullanar, a two-masted schooner, Derceto, a frigate, and the Atargatis, a three-masted schooner.
The historical buildings at South Street Seaport, now filled with higher-end shops and boutiques, have shaped how I imagine the layout and construction of the shops in Mariner. In the book, the rows of shops face the ocean and piers directly, as opposed to a side street like the one shown in the photo.
The color scheme for the buildings of the lower quarter came to me from Tenby, Wales (Dinbych-y-Pysgod for all my lovely Welsh speakers out there). I proudly lived in Wales for a term at university and visited all over the country and nearby England. Tenby was one of my favorite places to visit--I think I stayed there three times at least--so the majority of my inspiration for Mariner comes from Tenby.
|Old Stables off of Julian Street, Tenby.|
(cc) by Ray Jones
The Lower Quarter color scheme is nothing but dark stone (closer to the slate houses in Blaenau Ffestiniog) and green doors and window shutters. All of the buildings of the Lower Quarter are connected like row houses and are identical to each other.
|Tudor Merchant House, Tenby|
Image (cc) Robert Edwards
My book doesn't outwardly state the time period, but it is modelled after the Regency period in England, so any historical clues I drop point to that era. Even though the Tudor Merchant House would be far too ancient dwelling for Lily and her family, in my mind only the exterior of the building resembled the Tudor Merchant House. The inside would be much newer and larger, closer to something from the first decade of the 19th century.
The photo of the Tudor Merchant House is more like the back end of Lily's home. The rear entrance would lead straight into the kitchen, and a set of stairs just outside of it would lead to the second floor, where Lily's father Kale and her grandmother Viollca would have rooms. Lily and her sister Laney would live on the third floor in their own rooms, and each floor would have their own bath.
|Rose & Co. Apothecary|
Image (cc) Betty Longbottom
The storefront for the Rose & Co . Apothecary is one place in this post I actually haven't been to, but it's the best example of what the Bellamy Mercantile storefront would look like. The Rose & Co. Apothecary is located in Bradford, England. Sadly, I never made it anywhere near these places when I went abroad, but thanks to the goodness of Wikimedia Commons, I was able to locate a photo that best resembles the Bellamy Mercantile I see in my head.
Tenby also serves as a major influence for Highgate, the upper half of Mariner where the rich live. References in the book to an ancient wall that surrounds the city, the barbican, and the esplanade, all come from Tenby.
|Images from Wikimedia Commons|
|The Holburne Museum, Bath|
Image (cc) by 126 Club
I stayed mostly in the historic parts of Bath, near the cathedral and the old Roman baths and the Assembly Rooms, so I didn't make it to a place like the Holburne Museum. Nonetheless, this photo is a perfect example of the Georgian architecture that comprises the fictional area of Highgate. Plus, this was the pinkest-looking building I could find (although I think when you enlarge it the color looks a bit more golden) out of all the photos of Bath I looked at.
Stay tuned for our next feature, which discusses another important setting in The Name and the Key: Rookwood, and its real-life counterparts!