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Exploring The Escape Room with L.D. Smithson

  • Submitted: 28th February 2024

Exploring The Escape Room with L.D. Smithson

In my novel The Escape Room eight contestants are sent to an abandoned sea fort in the Solent to participate in a new Reality TV show – The Fortress – which turns out to be nothing like it seems. When I was looking for a remote location for my escape room I wanted something so cut off that no-one would be able to see or hear what was going on.

Map the locations in The Escape Room

The Escape Room set on an English Island - L. D. Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

I first considered one of the small islands off the British coastline but then my husband mentioned the Sea Forts. He is a retired Royal Navy Commander so was very familiar with these structures but I had no idea they existed. As soon as I googled them and saw these behemoths of concrete rising from the waves I knew I’d found my location.

An escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

An escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

As I researched them further they became ever more perfect. Not only had two of these military forts been converted into luxury hotels, due to the Covid pandemic they had since been closed and abandoned. When I looked at the images of the interior it inspired the story even more.

Inside the escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Inside the escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

The top two levels with their polished floors, plush furnishings, beautiful bedrooms and rooftop hot tub felt like an illusion. This was a place built to house cannons and to defend the coast from European attack not to relax in and sip champagne. It was a perfect mirror of my Escape Room which begins with light-hearted fun but turns darker and darker as the games go on.

Inside the escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Inside the escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

And to my delight, below all this luxury, on the basement level, deep within all that concrete, the narrow corridors, low ceilings and dark rooms told a different story. A story of warfare and gritty reality. A story of soldiers specially selected to be based there in World War One simply because they couldn’t swim, and therefore escape. This would be the location of the real Escape Room. A place built to ensure no enemy could break in, so by design, would ensure no one could break out.

Tunnels in the escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Tunnels in the escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

Researching this unique location required a lot of Google searching. At the time of writing The Escape Room it was not possible to visit the two converted Sea Forts due to them being closed following the pandemic, but I did find some brilliant sources of information.

An escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

An escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Firstly there is a website dedicated to the Forts which has loads of facts and photos which helped enormously. It then transpired that three of the four Forts had been placed up for sale which meant details could be found on the Estate Agent websites and also in Country Living Magazine.

Map the locations in The Escape Room

But by far the best and most useful thing I found was a YouTube video made by two young men with a boat and a GoPro who had managed to sneak inside Spit Bank Fort and video themselves walking through the hotel level, the sundeck above and the spooky basement below. I owe them a great debt of thanks for breaking and entering!

Leeds Corn Exchange (c) L D Smithson

Leeds Corn Exchange (c) L D Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

The only other location in the book is a rent by the hour office space in Leeds city centre where my protagonist, Bonnie, is being interviewed by a Podcast about her experiences on The Fortress. As I live near Leeds I was able to choose a location for this by walking around the town. My fictionalised spot is along lower Briggate, a street not far from the Corn Exchange, another imposing cylindrical building with echoes of the Sea Fort. I imagined this sight might have put Bonnie on edge as she made her way to the interview pondering on what to say to make sense of all that happened.

An escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

An escape room fort (c) L D Smithson

Map the locations in The Escape Room

I have to say that for me the Sea Fort is more than simply a location in The Escape Room. It feels like another character. Not only did it provide the perfect isolated setting, the history of the place and its design inspired the very story itself. I don’t want to include spoilers for those who haven’t read it, but for those who have I’m sure you won’t have missed the significance of the sun-drenched sundeck versus the dark, claustrophobic basement. It is the reason the fort was plucked from the sea to end up on TV.

 

Thanks for the trail! If you ever meet the author and she suggests an escape room activity – hmmm

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Escape Room

Twitter:      @LeonaDeakin1            Insta: @deakin.leona/

 

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