Saturday, 28 July 2012

Guest post: Setting a Novel by Tracey Sinclair + Giveaway

Setting a Novel
by Tracey Sinclair

The Gherkin
London is a true 21st century city. A thriving – though admittedly tainted – financial services industry is one of the most successful in the world, operating out of towering buildings of glass and steel. We boast such wonders of modern architecture as the Gherkin and The Shard; hell, we even have wifi on the tube. But London is also a city thick with history: even its most contemporary marvels exist side by side with the centuries: and it was this contrast that inspired me to use it as a backdrop to my novel, Dark Dates.

I’m not the first to think this, of course: while the bulk of urban fantasy is North American, authors like Neil Gaiman, Kate Griffin and, to an extent, JK Rowling have reimagined London as a hive of supernatural activity; a parallel world that runs alongside the one we know, where tube trains lead to underground worlds, or phone boxes take you to magical ministries. So, if nothing else, when I wrote my novel I was in good company.

Smithfield Meat Market
In creating the world of Dark Dates, I must admit to a high degree of laziness: I was inspired by the scenery on my doorstep, and it features heavily in the book. I used to work in an office that overlooked Smithfield Market, and it never ceased to fascinate me – for those not familiar with it, it’s a beautiful, ornate Victorian building that, yup, is used to sell bloody great slabs of meat. The contrast of such an elegant building with such a mundane and grim purpose was striking: the fact that the site had such a brutal history just made it all the more compelling. Hundreds of years ago, traitors were executed here (tourists still leave flowers at a shrine to William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace), and the area at one stage housed a giant plague pit. Yet today it is a thriving hub of cool bars and coffee shops, graphic design studios and trendy boutiques: a perfect backdrop for a heroine like Cassandra Bick, who is a 21st century career woman – snarky, spiky and smart, she owns her own business, the “Dark Dates” of the title – yet for all her modernity she spends her time with immortal creatures. One of the themes of the book is how those creatures have – or in some cases haven’t – adapted to this rapidly changing metropolis; how some of them bury themselves in the ever-present past, and some change to face the future.

Tower of London
When I changed jobs, this contrast became even more noticeable: I moved to a state of the art, Richard Rogers designed glass building… which was across the road from the Tower of London, the place where Richard III murdered the princes and Anne Boleyn lost her head. The squat, sprawling stone of the Tower is now overshadowed by the skyscrapers around it, but it simply radiates history: you just need to walk past its thick imposing walls to imagine medieval knights jousting in the grounds. It made me wonder what it must be like to have seen those walls go up: and to still be alive when the office blocks and high rise flats started to spring up around it. Both the hunter Cain and the vampire Laclos – the novel’s ‘heroes’ (of sorts) – are over 1000 years old, and figuring out how they deal with (and quite often clash with) the thoroughly modern Cassandra was part of the fun for me.

But the best part of London history for me is not the famous buildings and monuments, stunning as they are. It’s those nooks and crannies that date from the time of Shakespeare, the knowledge that you can take a short cut through the streets of Cheapside, where Prince Hal drank with Falstaff; you can still order a pint the pub where Dickens drank, or walk down the alleys where Jack the Ripper plied his gory trade. Dark Dates may wear the city lightly – it’s a vampire romp, not a history book – but how could I resist adding my own creations into that mix?

Tell me, what’s your favourite setting for an urban fantasy or paranormal romance novel?

Tracey Sinclair works as freelance copywriter, editor and legal directories consultant. A diverse and slightly wandering career has included writing factsheets for small businesses, creating web content for law firms, subtitling film and TV and editing one of the UK’s largest legal directories. A keen blogger, she regularly writes for online theatre site Exeunt and science fiction site Unleash the Fanboy and her blog Body of a Geek Goddess was shortlisted in the Cosmopolitan Blogger Awards 2011. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies and her short play Bystanders was premiered in 2011 as part of the CP Players New Writing Season at Baron’s Court Theatre, London. She has published two small press books (Doll and No Love is This, both Kennedy & Boyd) and is now dipping a toe in the digital self-publishing world with her new urban fantasy novel, Dark Dates.

Contact Tracey at her blog / Twitter / Goodreads

Dark Dates by Tracey Sinclair

Book #1 in the Cassandra Bick Chronicles series

All Cassandra Bick wants is to be left to get on with doing her job. But when you’re a Sensitive whose business is running a dating agency for vampires, life is never going to be straightforward – especially when there’s a supernatural war brewing in London, a sexy new bloodsucker in town and your mysterious, homicidal and vampire hating ex-lover chooses this moment to reappear in your life…

Witty, sharp and entertaining, Dark Dates is a heady mix of vampires, witches and werewolves – with the occasional angel thrown in – and introduces Cassandra Bick, a likeable heroine destined to join the ranks of fantasy’s feistiest females.


Tracey has generously offered an ebook copy of Dark Dates to a lucky commenter!

All you need to do is leave a comment answering Tracey's question: what’s your favourite setting for an urban fantasy or paranormal romance novel?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 3 August 2012!

Good luck!

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