L A Larkin is a British-Australian thriller author whose work has been likened to Michael Crichton and praised by Peter James. An adventurer at heart, Larkin has spent time in the Antarctic, and with scientists at the British Antarctic Survey and the Australian Antarctic Division.

To celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Devour – published 26th January 2017 by Constable – Literature Works is pleased to be taking part in the #DevourtheBook blog tour. We’re delighted to shared L A Larkin’s guest blog post with you…

"Thank you for inviting me to share my top tips for creating a sense of place in crime-thrillers.

You may hear estate agents go on about ‘location, location, location.’ But the location of a novel is just as important. The right location can add a whole new level of interest for the reader and also enhance the mood of any scene.

I choose the locations for my thrillers carefully. They need to be the best place to tell the story. The key location in my latest thriller, Devour, is Antarctica: the coldest, windiest and most isolated place on earth. The premise of Devour was inspired by a real Antarctic expedition in 2012, in which a small team of scientists attempted to drill down through three kilometres of ice to reach sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth, which had been buried for centuries. Sadly, they didn’t succeed. But in Devour, they succeed in bringing ancient microbial life to the surface. Little do they know the catastrophe they are about to unleash.

This is not the only location in the book. Investigative journalist, Olivia Wolfe, has just returned to London from Afghanistan, where her source is murdered and she only just escapes with her life. She is sent to Antarctica to discover if claims of murder and sabotage at the Lake Ellsworth project are true. Her journey to discover the truth will take her to a top-secret biological warfare laboratory in the UK and then, finally, to a maximum-security military base in the Nevada Desert, USA. So, how do I bring these places to life in my book?

Here are my top five tips for creating a sense of place:

  • Know your locations. Either visit them or do some research. That’s why I went to Antarctica so I could experience some of what Olivia Wolfe will go through in Devour. But I didn’t travel to Afghanistan. To write the scenes in Kabul, I read blogs by journalists based there. I watched videos shot in Kabul and read articles on how the drug lords operate. I also find Google Maps useful.
  • Location contributes to your story’s mood. A dark and dank abandoned warehouse can be menacing, whereas, the clear blue skies and sunshine after a raging Antarctic blizzard, suggest hope. I think one of the best examples of exceptionally well-written mood is in Joseph Conrad’s classic, Heart of Darkness. The jungle is a brooding presence that becomes increasingly threatening the closer Marlow gets to finding Kurtz. The jungle is almost a living, breathing character.
  • Why choose an ordinary living room when you can choose a roof-top? If you are writing an action scene, perhaps locate it somewhere that makes it more threatening for your hero.
  • Use what I call the ‘bricks of detail’ to bring the place to life in your reader’s imagination. Appeal to their senses. Help them imagine not only what the place looks like, but how it smells, feels like to the touch, sounds like, even tastes like.
  • Excessive detail, however, can annoy. When you know a lot about a location, it’s tempting to tell the reader everything, but this can distract from the plot and annoy your reader. I’m a great believer that less is more."

Thank you Louisa!

Visit L A Larkin’s website to find out more about her.

Read Literature Works’ review of Devour.