Helena Maeve on the importance of location

Posted by Holly Gunner on 17th July 2015

Location, location, location!


Where to set a novel is as important as figuring out who your main characters are going to be and what you’ll call them. Whenever I sit down to plot a story, staging and décor are among the first things I put to paper. Sometimes a few lines will be enough to give me a clear idea of the world I want. Other times, I venture to the Pinterest machine and start scrolling for ideas.

If anyone asks, yes, that hour (or six) of research is absolutely vital before I can start writing. Really.

My newest title, Violent Delights, was no exception to this rule.

Paris is a city I know well. I’ve wanted to set a story there ever since I destroyed part of it in a world-ending asteroid shower in Collision Course. (Oops?) In this novel, I’m at least kind enough to let the Eiffel Tower stand. Because it’s me, though, I’m awful to the city in other ways. For instance, this time around the capital plays home to a serial killer’s daughter and her unlikely new beau.

French-American by birth and fundamentally foreign to both countries, Laure lives alone and works as a shop girl in one of Paris’ ritzier department stores.

I researched Paris a lot as I wrote. I wanted Laure to fit into the street fashion and daily grind of French life, to be as firmly as entrenched as only someone deliberately trying to fit in could be. I especially wanted to highlight the nightlife—the City of Lights isn’t so named without reason, after all—and juxtapose Laure’s yearning for crowded streets with her discomfort around other people.

For all my efforts to get the French capital just right, I researched Laure’s hometown of Topeka, Kansas even more. I wanted the heartland to beckon to Laure as a quaint treasure trove of childhood memories. I wanted it to be familiar-but-not, the kind of place that warrants trepidation despite the ghost of apple pie lingering in the air and the wide, open roads seemingly going on forever.

Tacking on the whiff of a family mystery to the atmosphere of a maximum security penitentiary and burying a few skeletons behind white picket fences helps, I think.

But Laure’s story in Violent Delights isn’t just a matter of looking back. While she wrestles with her past in Kansas—where she is afraid to linger—and her chosen port of call—in which she doesn’t feel she belongs—she also seeks to find a place beside her new partner, the unlikely Ashley. Fifteen years her senior and far from the type of guy she normally dates, he’s New York sophistication through and through.

While Laure is chaos and cobblestone boulevards, Ashley’s mind works along the same geometric lines as the city grid. Between the two of them, the unanswered questions of Laure’s past stand little chance.

And if my editor asks: yes, I did figure all this out by spending six hours on Pinterest. Really.


Violent Delights is out for early download now!



Violent Delights

Buried secrets surface when least expected.

With one parent in prison and the other cold in the ground, Laure desperately wants to blend in. She’s worked hard constructing the pretence of a well-adjusted, sophisticated Parisian woman. But hiding in plain sight is only feasible as long as her father’s victims allow it.

As the anniversary of his conviction draws near, Laure finds herself in the crosshairs of one last cold case with an unlikely ally. The only man she can depend on was never meant to be more than a rebound fling, a distraction from her luckless love life. Now, his fate may well rest in Laure’s hands.

Ashley is fifteen years her senior and should know better. Yet something about his neurotic neighbour draws him in. Moth to flame, he will follow Laure to the ends of the world if he must. If not, he’ll go as far as Kansas on the trail of a killer’s last unsolved murder and help unravel a mystery steeped in bloody family history.

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