Rewriting the City and its Dark, Twisted Streets

Why I chose Nottingham as a setting for my novel I Came to Find a Girl

Nottingham, UNESCO City of Literature, has provided the setting for classic novels from the likes of DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe, and continues to inspire today with writers such as John Harvey, David Belbin and Nicola Monaghan using the city in their contemporary works. Nottingham is also the main setting for my novel I Came to Find a Girl.

I Came to Find a Girl is a psychological thriller about art student Mia and how she meets famous artist Jack Flood when he’s in the city for the opening of his own exhibition. Mia goes back to his hotel, accepts a drink, and later wakes up naked with no idea what has occurred. She fears she may have been filmed for one of Flood’s future video artworks. Should she go to the police? And what has happened to here missing friend Jenny? Women are being murdered, and the city seems to have become a more dangerous place.

IMG_3610The novel began as a desire to look at what it’s like to be a young, single woman in an urban environment – the dark side of the Sex & the City/Bridget Jones lifestyle, if you like – and the reality that there is a downside to sexual freedom and that women will always have to watch out.

Thankfully most people live their entire lives unscathed by serious crime, but there is always the ‘what if’ scenario – that moment in anyone’s past where taking a wrong turn, though no fault of one’s own, could render a person vulnerable to harm. Moments like this are also more likely if you’re young and out partying, your better judgement fuzzed by alcohol, and so that’s why I chose to make my protagonist a young student, out enjoying her new found freedom in Nottingham’s numerous bars and clubs.

Nottingham’s lively, attractive centre is compact, and has a small-town feel, making it the  perfect setting for characters to repeatedly run into each other, even though one of them would rather not.

There is the legendary Rock City and the many other clubs and bars that contribute to Nottingham’s reputation as a great night out, and there is the contrasting sprawl of its various residential areas that span out from its heart.

Every night out ends with the need to return home. A bus or tram will only take you so far, and a cab may be too costly for the young. All women know that even the shortest walk home can suddenly feel treacherous if there are footsteps behind.

I spent three years in Nottingham, firstly in the Meadows area and then in Forest Fields. Walking home late at night was always a concern. My house was in the red light area and cars would sometimes slow by the kerbside, although thankfully apart from the odd proposition nothing untoward happened. But these memories triggered a sense that (like all cities) Nottingham is a place where dark happenings sometimes occur, and that the numerous worm-like streets that spread out from its beating heart could provide the perfect backdrop for a story that is ‘dark, haunting, twisted’ (according to the Telegraph). Nottingham is an attractive, vibrant city and as it continuously evolves, so too will it continue to inspire.

This feature was first published on NottsLit, Literature with a Nottingham Connection.

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