A Sense of Place

Location plays an important part in novels. It sets the scene, helps brings the story to life with realism, especially when actual places are used, places readers may know and can envisage. In each of my novels location has proved invaluable to creating atmosphere: London and the River Thames in Every Step of the Way and Queenie Queenie, a Cotswold Georgian mansion where I once lived in Whitestones, and the Greek island of Thassos in Where Two Worlds Collide. This last location, although a very real island, is one I have not visited yet but, being a lover of all things Greek and having over the last 12 years had the fortune to visit many Greek islands, a vivid imagination knows how that island must look. That and images and descriptions found on the Internet, of course.

So it did come as a great shock when recently holidaying on Corfu when I found myself staying in a beautiful bay on the east coast that exactly mirrored the bay and location I had created in Two Worlds. In this novel, a time slip, I describe a large villa built against a cliffside, spread over three levels. There is a swimming pool on the second terrace and rough stone steps flanked by blue morning glory, oleander and hibiscus bushes leading down to a narrow sandy beach in a shallow bay guarded by high headlands. A short walk along the beach on a rickety boardwalk takes my heroine to the nearby village, otherwise reached by a dusty dirt road over the cliff before descending to a scattering of houses and tavernas. I have no doubt innumerable bays and resorts around Greece mirror this but there was something else about Agios Gordios that made this extra weird.

In my book, there is a cave leading up through the cliff to an old village set way back in the hills. The entrance is hidden from view by a rock stack in which there is a huge wasps’ nest at the summit. Just as at Agios Gordios!

Imagine then my surprise at finding just such things at the hotel I stayed at. Built over several terraces, a swimming pool on the second, stone steps down to the beach, the village reached by a short walk along the beach, the high cliffs flanking the bay and that eerie monolith of rock hiding caves. Caves, I did not venture into, I hasten to add. Weird things happen there in my book that I didn’t want to happen to me.

As I watched the sunrise over the bay that very first morning, it was like a homecoming. The sense of déjà vu overwhelming as the cicadas ceased their singing and slunk back into the dank undergrowth and the birds trilled in the growing light, for I knew the place well. It was scary and yet comfortable all at the same time. My travelling companions were taken aback when I led them to the village by the long route through dusty paths between semi-derelict and bougainvillea-clad houses and guided them to familiar tavernas spread along the beach, knew what time the fishing boats came into the narrow jetty. How? Because I had written about it all, described each element.

Perhaps I had been there before, in a past life or in a dream. Whatever the reason, Agios Gordios will remain in my memory for a lifetime. It will have to as I have probably lost all my holiday photos thanks to a computer error. Hopefully the Greek Gods will look down kindly on me and restore them or else take my path back there some day so I can take some more whilst sampling one of the many cocktails served at Agios Gordios.

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20 thoughts on “A Sense of Place

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  1. Hi Kit, just picked this up. Deja vu is such a scary yet fascinating experience and has happened to me on several occasions. We stayed in Toledo many years ago as part of a journey through Spain and as soon as we arrived I knew there was a connection, that I had been there before. In some ways it’s a shame we can’t recall that past time, but then maybe there’s a reason for this, who knows?

    1. Hi Audrey, This place in Corfu was as if I had made it all up and it had become real. Magic and weird at the same time. Looking forward to returning to the island next year. Have my own theories on thoughts on deja vue which are being explored in my current WIP, if I ever find the time to finish it.
      All the best.

  2. Déjà vu is a strange feeling and what comes across in this piece is how strongly you felt that connection. I do believe you had been there before, but I also wish you have total recall because it just HAD to be in another life (laugh!). Now wouldn’t that be inspiration for another article? Love it Kit, thanks for sharing.

  3. What a post! It’s amazing how we get a picture of a place in our mind’s eye and then find out it’s real! There’s a road and a house not far from where I live and when I was young, it scared the be-Jesus out of me. Very plain small clapboard house and the gravel road disappeared behind it almost like it REALLY vanished. I remember having nightmares about it but don’t know if I’d gone past it or if it was just my imagination… SPOOKY!

    On a lighter note, I hope your pictures aren’t lost, Kit. But if they are, it’s always an excuse to return to that beautiful place and maybe even get better ones!

    1. Thanks for comment, Melanie. Strange how our eyes and mind play tricks on us. Spooky indeed. Still waiting to hear if photos saved but am returning to island next year. Who knows what will happen next.

  4. Wow, Kit – what an experience. Sounds to me like a very good omen indeed for the book!
    Something slightyly spooky of the writing kind happned to me when I bumped into someone who looked exactly as I had imagined the hero of my WIP at the time (not hunk, just a regular guy but to me he ‘was’ Alec). Very unsettling. – probably for him too as I couldn’t take me eyes off him!
    Looking forward to reading that novel.
    Ali B

    1. Alison, it’s even more spooky how things have progressed since that trip. I can well imagine how you felt when seeing “Alec”. The imagination of authors knows no bounds, it seems. Did you ever explain to him why you were so intent on looking at him? I wonder what he would have said if he knew?

  5. Oh my gosh, Kit, how weird… unsettling but exciting all at the same time. But so sorry about your photos, really hope you manage to get them back. If not, you’ll just have to plan another trip 🙂

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