I’ve written three modern novel-length Jane Austen variations, and back when I was posting each of them on fan fiction websites, I received many comments and compliments about the story settings and how they seemed to come alive, almost like additional characters. So what goes into choosing where I want to place my Darcy and Elizabeth and bring them to life?
Each of my novels has a distinct setting, but I’ll focus on Sanctuary, which is set in Maine – specifically in Portland, and on Great Diamond Island (though Boston and New York City each get a shout out). Portland has long been a favorite place for my husband and me to visit, and we’ve been there several times. It’s close to home and boasts a fabulous food and arts scene, it’s small and walk-able, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, and is a stone’s throw from some of the most beautiful wilderness you’ll ever see.
For Sanctuary, I needed to pull Darcy and Elizabeth away from their “home bases”—New York City and Boston, respectively—and put them in a place where two people who were trying to heal and start again might realistically retreat to. Portland was ideal; I didn’t want to take them completely out of a city setting, but wanted to scale back on it a bit. But I also felt they needed to be somewhere a bit more peaceful, maybe somewhere outside of the city, but close enough that they could visit and possibly work in Portland.
I began to do a little research and soon discovered the beautiful islands of Casco Bay, and very quickly decided on Great Diamond Island as a new home for Darcy and Elizabeth. It gave them a haven, a sanctuary (yes, I went there), a place to escape and find some peace away from the city.
Having never visited the island, I had to learn a bit about it and what it was like to live year-round on a small spit of land in the Atlantic. I took some artistic license; the island is much smaller than the size portrayed in Sanctuary, it’s not quite as busy, and the population only runs at about 70 residents year-round. But I hope I captured the beauty and spirit and intimate feel of it, with all of its quirks—which I won’t spoil by mentioning them here. I fell in love with it and its uniqueness, and I hope that if (when?) you read Sanctuary, you’ll fall in love with it, too.