The locations in which stories take place are important. Many of the stories Heide and I write take place in very specific and real locations. In our Clovenhoof series of books, the action takes place in Sutton Coldfield and you can go to the pub Clovenhoof drinks in or the church he causes all manner of trouble in. The Oddjobs books we write take place in the utterly real Birmingham I live in. The tunnels and hidden spaces and pieces of crazy history Morag and the gang encounter are really real and really there — we even have an Authors’ Notes section at the back to make this clear.
Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood is one of the other stories. We don’t make it clear where it’s set and some of the names are made up but, in my mind, it’s very clearly based on the village of Castleton in Derbyshire. I’ve just had to Google to check it’s a village, not a town because it’s a very busy village. The countryside around is dominated by sheep-covered hillsides, steep passes that are closed with the first snows and deep and dramatic caves that you won’t see anywhere else in the country. The village sits in a valley beneath a small but imposing castle. A river runs through it. Such a place is naturally popular with tourists so the village has several fine pubs and plenty of the kinds of tea shops I like. I like Castleton. It’s a distilled version of what people expect from the Peak District and from the English countryside. It is, for want of a better word, quaint.
Britain is a cosy country. We’re not Australia, where it seems every little thing is venomous and wants to kill you. We’re not North America where isolated communities can live life as they wish, untouched by the outside world. We’re a crowded, cosy island. We’re safe. And it’s that sense of safety that makes our dark corners all the more dangerous. We’re lulled into a false sense of security by the belief that help is just around the corner. That’s why people die climbing mountains that are barely worth the title of ‘mountain’. That’s why people drown in cities when there’s an unusually heavy rainfall.
For the purposes of our story, Castleton was ideal. It was the kind of place our story family would choose to visit for a night away and its cutesy quaint charms hide the fact that, when it gets dark and the weather closes in, that corner of England can be an isolated and dangerous place. Britain doesn’t have much true wilderness but we city-dwellers forget that, out in the country, it’s quite easy to be stuck somewhere where doctors, police, tow trucks and food supplies can’t be swiftly summoned. Isolation is a key element of horror. Danger in the midst of safety.
You can find Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood on Amazon