When people discover that I'm a Regency romance writer, they often ask, "Where do you find inspiration for you writing?" or "Do you use real people/places as a foundation?" Good question! The simple answer is...I don't know! And truly, the ideas just come to me from a multitude of sources, and I always have more ideas than time to write them all.
But if I delve deeper, for me, it all starts with atmosphere. The WHERE of a story is just as important to me at the idea stage as the WHO and the WHAT. Creating atmosphere is so very important because the atmosphere of a story--Gothic, traditional, cutting-edge spy plot--should find its way into every detail of the story, whether the reader (and truly, the author, too) realizes it or not. The reader absorbs this atmosphere as part of her overall experience in reading the book, so I try to I use real places where I’ve been for the settings in order to create authentic atmosphere.
Because my novels are set in Regency England, and I lived in London during college and often traveled out to the countryside, I’m fortunate to have first-hand experience with the atmosphere of the city, the look of the countryside, and the wonderful people who live there. I’ll often find a single house or building which strikes me, one which creates a certain feeling or mood (that atmosphere), and then the story might take off from there. I don’t use real people as models for the characters, not even actors to have a visual in my head as I write, but my characters seem to evolve organically from the places. The mood they carry with them in terms of personality pervades the entire book.
An example? This white-stone farmhouse was the inspiration for Snowden Hall, the Yorkshire estate where Emily Crenshaw lives in ALONG CAME A ROGUE. The rain in the picture, the overcast sky--even the stark exterior of the house itself--added to the feeling of isolation surrounding Emily in the early chapters of the book. (Minus the satellite dish!).