‘Tis the Season: Writing with the Weather – Rosie Claverton
It’s always raining in Wales.
This is, of course, a fallacy. It only rains on about half the days of the year in Wales, less so in Cardiff. However, I feel a particular sense of homecoming when I arrive in the Welsh capital and it’s tipping down with rain.
I lived in Cardiff for five years and it always seemed to be raining, particularly when I had forgotten my coat or on the way home from a night out. Cardiff is the reason I gave up on umbrellas, too many falling victim to the wind or threatening to give me a Mary Poppins effect. I took my driving test one sodden July, where the bridges all harboured dark pools and the instructors wouldn’t let us out on the lanes. Though there were surely sunny days, my overwhelming memory of Cardiff is rain.
Now I live in London and the two cities are not exactly an ecosystem apart. London has its fair share of rain and flooding. This makes it easy for me to write my wet Welsh scenes, because I can look out of the window and see it. I envy those writers who can write an atmosphere different from the one they’re living, like Agatha Christie typing away in Torquay and imagining Poirot across the globe. (However, I also like the Craig Robertson school of thought that an island research trip is essential!)
On our honeymoon in the Maldives, my husband made the terrible error of bringing along a Nesbo. The snow-packed pages of Scandinavian crime fiction were not well suited to beach sand between the toes. A bit of Death of the Nile may have worked better. “Write what you know” is a trite, overused phrase, but it is much harder to write a tropical summer with the radiators cranked up than it is to imagine a remote winter while huddled under blankets with a mug of hot chocolate.
In Anna Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, she talks about the singular joy of reading a book in the place where it is set. She was talking about adventure journals in her own experience, but my moment was reading Dracula on a little bench in Whitby, looking across the water to the ruins of the abbey. It was a haunting moment, beautiful.
To experience the home of my books, I only have to head down the M4 for a couple of hours. However, I don’t get to experience the city as often as I’d like. London must be my substitute Cardiff for now—a peculiar reversal of the Doctor Who model, where Cardiff often pretends to be London.
My current project is set in London, but during the Victorian era. The buildings and speech patterns may have changed, but the weather stays the same. When I started writing the novel at the beginning of November, I hadn’t picked a season in which to set it. However, as I wrote, I realised the rain was creeping in, the chill settling over the words, and my book had found its home in the late autumn. While I continue to start novels during National Novel Writing Month, I imagine there will be quite a few more fictional Novembers.
Do you read according to the season? Can you enjoy McCall Smith in Alaska or Ridpath in the Caribbean? Are you only happy when it rains? Tell all in the comments!