Why Choosing the Settings of a Novel is Important
A novel’s setting includes time, location, circumstances and weather, and all four influence the plot. The central characters in Kilingiri drive the story but the locations and the era bind them together providing colour and atmosphere, and the weather often amplifies the emotions of the protagonists. Choosing the settings both of time and location for Kilingiri was vitally important as they provide the essential backdrop to the plot along with heightening the story line and adding drama. Without that combination my characters’ experiences would have no context and therefore be meaningless to the reader. Today bearing a child out of wedlock is the norm in pretty much any strata of Western society, but in 1968 it was shameful, particularly for Nina the daughter of a Catholic diplomat.
The settings can be window- dressing, they can educate or provide pause for thought to allow for the exploration of old and new themes and concepts, a mini history or geography lesson, a reflection on the social mores of a particular culture and era, or open windows on to new and different worlds. And they will – I hope in the case of Kilingiri – entertain.
Settings also indicate change and character development. With sagas – and Kilingiri is certainly one as the plot spans decades and crosses continents – we meet Nina in 1968 when she is young and vulnerable and over the years witness how the joys and adversities of life combine to affect the behaviour and reactions of her more mature self in the mid-1990s. Choosing the settings should be a focal point for a writer. They spark readers’ imaginations and sense of exploration of new and different experiences but should not drown them in a mass of facts and detail.
Finally, as settings often take the reader to somewhere that is different to their normal lives, it is wise to consider where it is they might like to travel. People who have read Kilingiri said that they feel the locations are so important to the story that they became like individual characters, and once drawn in by the beauty of the background, the story fell gracefully into place. Others have told me that the descriptions of Hong Kong and Singapore, Thailand and India have enabled them to relive their memories of their personal experiences of the times and places.
1968, Srinagar, Kashmir and Nina is devastated by the death of her new-born baby girl.
Sister Angela and Father Michael at the mission hospital step in to nurse Nina back to health
but when the friendship between Nina and Father Michael turns to love, Michael makes a
decision which will resonate through the years.
It is 1981 and in Kinsale, Ireland, Nina, devoted to her son Joshua, lives a loveless existence,
but a chance encounter changes everything. Michael is back in her life, he leaves the
priesthood and happiness is within their grasp.
But when past and present collide, their whole world is turned upside down.
Only by facing the consequences of what has gone before, can Nina and Michael embrace
Janna Gray guides us masterfully through this poignant story of love, loss, betrayal and