Author Stephen Lloyd Jones gives us insight into how he discovered the geographical birthplace of his fictional trilogy:
‘I didn’t arrive in Budapest expecting to find a location for my debut novel, but that’s exactly what happened. I’d been planning The String Diaries for some time – I knew the plot, many of the characters, and the twists and turns the story would take. One thing I hadn’t finalised, however, was a birthplace for the mythology that sat at the novel’s heart.
The book opens not in Budapest, but Snowdonia. A young woman, Hannah Wilde, is driving through the mountains at night, pursued by a man who has murdered the last five generations of her family. Locked in the boot of Hannah’s car is a cache of diaries dating back two hundred years. Hidden within their pages are details of an obscure Eastern European myth that offer vital clues to the killer’s identity.
All mythologies have a geographical source, and they usually shine a light on the culture from which they arise. I knew, when I started to construct the invented mythology of The String Diaries, that its birthplace would play a key role in how it developed. I knew, also, that I wanted an Eastern European location – I’ve long been fascinated by that region’s tradition of folklore and storytelling.
Which country, though? I spent long months researching the candidates, filling countless notebooks with thoughts and scraps of information. But it was only when I arrived in Hungary in early 2010 that I made my decision. The country, with its rich and turbulent past, felt like the perfect place for The String Diaries’ mythology to evolve.
Budapest, too, with its grand architecture and unique position along the Danube, offered a plethora of dramatic backdrops: Buda Castle, the Hungarian State Opera House, Széchenyi Bathhouse, the spectacular Lake Balaton a hundred miles to the southwest; they’re exceptionally inspiring locales, and they all make an appearance within the novel’s pages.
Three years after I walked out of Liszt Ferenc airport for the first time, The String Diaries appeared in bookshops. Strange, really, to consider what events can be triggered simply by stepping off a plane.’
If this has inspired you get stuck into Stephen’s novels, why not pick up The String Diaries trilogy for your next holiday read?
The first book in the trilogy, THE STRING DIARIES, was a Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club pick and is available in paperback. The second book, WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD, is also available in hardback and e-book on Amazon now.