Location Location Location.
Not just about the house you buy, maybe, but also about the books you read. Every story I loved as a child had something about the setting.
For a while I was obsessed with Brendon Chase, by 'BB.' I tried to find it on maps, and the place names and their descriptions enchanted me so much that I remember them easily now. The town of Martyr Bar, Blind Pool, deep in the forest.
I stared at maps from the Lord of the Rings until my eyes bugged out. I was seriously disappointed that I could never actually go there. The writing of Laurie Lee had the same effect, apart from I COULD go there, and so the first holiday I went on by myself was a bike tour of Northern Spain, visiting Burgos and Leon, and other destinations he passed through in the beautifully written, wonderfully titled 'As I walked out One Midsummer Morning.'
And now I write myself, and magical, real life places are where I try my hardest to set my work. There are several, but the most important is Glastonbury and the Somerset Levels, where I lived for two years, where I set 'Song to Wake to' and th source of the name for the characters school and the entire series itself.
Truth is stranger than fiction, and why make somewhere up, when there is a real place as wonderful as the Levels?