It Is Better to Use Google Earth Hopefully Than Arrive

Aliya Whiteley on whether a writer needs to be there or just look it up on Google Earth:

I know that place. Two of my relatives have held wedding receptions in that hotel. The beach is indeed stunning, and very often empty. Although the names have been changed, every detail is exact. And I suppose this stuff is not secret, but it is surprising to find such a small corner of the UK depicted so accurately. I wonder why she changed the name of the place. I thought – she must live around there. And then I thought, hey, she’s a great writer, I’m sure she could have researched it and done it justice. Can you capture a place so exactly if you visit it only once and then Google Earth it a bit?

My current novel is set in St Petersburg. It feels like the height of cheekiness to publish a book about a place that I’ve never been to. I’m learning Russian, which is a start when writing a Russian story, but I’m aware that a trip to St Petersburg is required, if only for peace of mind.

Another book of mine (gosh, there do seem to be lots of them) featured several scenes in the Bavaria National Forest. Dutifully, I went there, only to find the place was exactly as I had imagined it. Bloody typical.


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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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