It is snowing in Southern Maryland. Woooee. After waiting all winter and beginning to think about spring, a storm roared up the coast and we are in for eight to ten inches. To the right is the 8 AM view off our front porch.
It’s not a friendly storm. The wind is fiendish. All night, snow clots fell on the roof, blown down from the trees. It sounded like a violent snowball fight, but we prefer it to trees laden with ice and snow. Everyone here still talks about the ice storm in the 90’s when they were without power for ten days.
Listening to the thumps last night, I thought about the role weather and climate plays in my books. In the early regencies (written for Kensington) I virtually ignore the fact that it rains so much in England. In thinking back over the five novels I wrote under the Zebra imprint, the weather was not a factor in any of the stories. As a matter of fact in my last book for Kensington, THE CAPTAIN’S MERMAID, my Jamaican born and raised heroine loved to swim in the lake that separated her brother’s estate from the hero’s.
That was my ‘aha’ moment. Even putting my heroine’s home in the warmest spot in England, it is likely that only the most eccentric woman would swim regularly even in the summer. As the title shows, her love of swimming was an essential part of the story so it stayed and not one reader or reviewer complained.
Now, before I dive too deep into writing a book, I research significant weather events. I've learned about the Frost Fair of 1814 and the Year Without a Summer, 1816. That’s Mt. Pinatubo below. Following a massive eruption the ash from Pinatubo spread worldwide and is thought to have caused the colder than usual summer in 1816. That’s a subject I covered in another blog post.
I thought about books and movies set in England during the Regency and considered whether climate or weather played a significant part in the story. More movies came to mind than books, probably because of the visual element in movies.
In the London scenes of the movie AMAZING GRACE it rains. It more than rains. Rain floods out of the sky. London is wet and miserable all the time. The rain dose not so much advance the plot as it creates a mood. IN MASTER AND COMMANDER sun, rain and wind are such a fundamental part of life at sea that weather is like a character.
In the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I do not recall rain in any scene except the one where Jane is going to Mr. Bingley’s. In the Keira Knightley P&P rain is used as a cliched plot device.
Tell me, how’s your weather been this winter? How aware are you of the importance of weather or climate in your books? Are they a significant background element or used to further the story? I will check back frequently today but a neighbor just called to say they lost power so if you don’t hear from me, you know why.