In my experience, when you think about a book you really love it’s often the setting that drew you in. I mean, would Wuthering Heights have the same impact if Cathy met Heathcliff on a housing estate in Woking? Could the gritty neo-noir western, No Country for Old Men work if Cormac McCarthy had set it in the Hamptons?
For writers as well as readers, a story often starts with a place. When I began thinking about the story that would become Proof of Their One-Night Passion, I already knew where I wanted to set it.
The name conjures up images of snowy wastelands and Arctic winds, but the reality is far more extraordinary. Iceland does indeed have snow. It also has sky-coloured, mineral rich lagoons, black sand beaches and volcanoes. It is starkly, and on occasion, forbiddingly beautiful- a lot like my hero, Ragnar Stone.
With a setting chosen, the narrative and the characters started to emerge. Iceland is famous for its sagas. The Norse Myths are epic tales of war and love, betrayal and ruin, and so it felt natural to me for Ragnar to have a complicated, sprawling family of self-indulgent, dramatic larger-than-life relations.
His complicated relationships with them are what has driven his life, inspiring him to create a billion-dollar dating app, ice/breakr. When on a whim, he decides to test it out for himself, he meets the heroine, Lottie Dawson.
With a geography combining fire and ice, Iceland was the perfect location for telling Lottie and Ragnar’s will-they-won’t-they story. My biggest problem was what to leave out. In the end the character of Ragnar made the choice for me.
He’s a workaholic, a man on a mission to bring order to the chaotic world of dating who spends his life racking up air miles as he expands his global business empire. But for two or three weeks a year he stops and goes back home.
I loved the idea of Ragnar taking Bill Gates style ‘think weeks’, retreating from the world to just chill and let his mind wander. And where better to chill that in a isolated, luxury hideaway with 360 degree views of the Troll Peninsula.
It was great fun taking Lottie and her eleven month old daughter with Ragnar along for the ride – literally in Lottie’s case. She gets to ride one of the famous Icelandic horses to see the twin waterfalls on Ragnar’s estate. It’s a key moment in their story, and a chance for both of them to reflect on the uncontrollable power of nature, and love.
Confession time: I’ve never been to Iceland, so researching the setting for Proof of Their One-Night Passion required a lot of time and effort. Even simple facts like when the sun rises and sets had to be checked. My casual assumption that Lottie could see the Northern Lights all year round required a quick change of timeline when I realised that Iceland’s high latitude means there is no darkness from mid-April until mid-August. And no darkness means no Northern Lights.
Fortunately,the internet is a fantastic, hands-on resource. And luckily I also knew several people who had visited Iceland and were able to give me first-hand experiences of their trips.
I hope you enjoy reading Proof of Their One-Night Passion as much as I enjoyed writing it, and in case, you’re wondering, my favourite scene is right at the end of the book on the black sand beach.