If the Tudors had listened to the Beatles, things might have been very different.
The place and time in which a writer sets his or her stories is crucial. A reader wants to know where and when they are being placed, wants to feel welcome, wants to believe in the world they’re entering. This world may be entirely fictional or the author might be plonking us down in a period of history or taking us to a modern day location. As a writer, it’s important to find or create a setting that gets you excited.
For a long time I’ve been rather excited by a small period of history. For me, it is the time at which the world I know was created, when all that I know began to grow as a result of seemingly unconnected events at home and around the world. Specifically, I have written a tale or two, a novel, and a screenplay set in London in 1962.
To be even more specific. The world changed in October 1962.
I had never seen it written down anywhere how much this little period of time can be considered the birth of ‘now’. And then, after years of trying to convince people what a vibrant environment October ’62 is for setting a story, I found an article that listed all the stuff I had been banging on about.
So, Hilary Mantel can have the Tudors. She can place her irritating personal pronouns within their world. And Bernard Cornwell can have the Napoleonic wars and all that big adventure stuff.
For me, it’s London, October 1962, when two world wars had gone, a nuclear war was imminent, teenagers rebelled, the contraceptive pill was available to women, the British-born black population was growing, and The Beatles’ first single reached number seventeen in the charts.
Have a read of this, written in 2012, so I don’t have to convince you that I’m absolutely 100% right.