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The Life I Stole set in London – Nikola Scott

  • Submitted: 17th March 2024

The Life I Stole by Nikola Scott

One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that you get to choose exactly where to spend the long months of crafting a story.

nikola scott

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

I write historical fiction — family sagas full of dark secrets, love and mystery – and I have two criteria when picking my settings. For one, I have to love it and know it well. And it has to enrich and support the characters’ inner worlds.

The Life I Stole Nikola Scott

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

In Summer of Secrets, mysterious Cornwall enables Maddy to hide from a painful past. In My Mother’s Shadow, traveling to the wild cliffs of Sussex helps Liz shake off her stifling suburban life. And Blitz-battered Land Girl Violet discovers a dark side beneath peaceful, gentle Somerset in The Orchard Girls.

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

My newest novel, The Life I Stole, is set in 1950s London. Incidentally, London is one of my favourite places in the world and especially for historical fiction, I don’t think you can ask for a better canvas. It’s been beaten and battered through history, has risen with grace and determination every time, and is a perfect place to challenge, push and prod your characters on their journeys of change.

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

In 1953, memories of the war are fading, Queen Elizabeth has just been crowned and Isobel McIntyre dreams of becoming a surgeon at a large teaching hospital. On the outside, she seems to be doing well, but deep inside she hides a dark secret: a whole other life, which helped set her dream in motion years ago, but now has the potential to destroy everything.

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

All pieces of the London setting mirror this double life: doctor-in-training Isobel, with her impeccable social background, moves between fancy houses in Chelsea takes afternoon tea at the Ritz in Piccadilly, visits flashy nightclubs in Knightsbridge. Meanwhile, the poor girl she has hidden away inside her is forced to confront memories of a very different place: London’s East End, an overcrowded working-class neighbourhood, where there’s little chance to ever escape the drudgery of your circumstances – unless you do something dark and dangerous…

The Royal Marsden

Isobel’s worlds collide at stately, traditional Thamesbury Hospital (fictional) in the heart of South Kensington. This ultimately forces her to make a difficult choice: the life she always dreamed of, or the one she was truly meant to lead?

The Life I Stole Nikola Scott

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

All my settings are based on real places where I’ve lived or visited. I like knowing my way around and being able to capture the streetscape, architecture and general atmosphere for the reader. Individual buildings, however – in this case, Thamesbury Hospital, the night club, and the houses Isobel frequents – tend to be mostly fictional. That way I can customise them according to the exact needs of the story.

Bomb Damage in London 1940s

Bomb Damage in London 1940s (c) Wikipedia

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

Writing a historical setting as opposed to a contemporary one comes with its own challenges: Has anything changed between the layout back then and the one I know now? Are the street names the same? Would it have been bombed out? I use a special edition London A to Z Street Guide from the 1940s to double-check streets. For my war novels, I’ve used a site chronicling all known bomb sites during WW2, to make sure the area I write about would have been available for story action.

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

Occasionally I do use real buildings to add iconic flair. This means I do quite a bit of research so that no wrong detail jars the reading experience. I wanted to include tea at The Ritz, for example, so I stopped by the hotel and checked out the tearoom, staircases and corridors, (even the loos!). Then, I sat in one of the fancy little alcoves and wrote down every detail I could think of that might add vibrancy to the scene later on.

Map of locations in The Life I Stole

Whether you love contemporary crime or meaty historical sagas, you cannot go wrong with London as a destination.

My favourite two itineraries:

1.) wandering through Chelsea (quaint streets and fun shops) and on into South Kensington (great museums).

2.) walking the south side of the Thames between the London Eye and Tower Bridge (warships, Roman roads and street markets included). London doesn’t get much better than this, I promise!

 

Thank you Nikola!

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass: Nikola Scott novels

Twitter:   @nikola_scott  Insta:   nikolascottauthor/

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