Wednesday 20 November 2019

Location, Location, Location - Guest Post Louise Mangos

I just love reading stories set in other countries and I love reading suspense. Author Louise Mangos has combined both of these elements in her two thrillers, Strangers on a Bridge and Her Husbands's Secrets, which is why I was delighted when she offered to write a piece for Wendy's Writing Now on the importance of setting in a novel.

Over to you, Louise.

I believe it was Mark Twain who initially coined the phrase “Write what you know.” Like me, he was a voracious traveller, and often spent weeks at a time in the settings of his stories.

Both my suspense novels are set in different areas of Switzerland, and I am lucky enough to have spent several years in two of the locations. My debut, Strangers on a Bridge, is set in and around the valley where I currently live.

My second novel, Her Husband’s Secrets (previously titled The Art of Deception) has a dual timeline in two settings. The backstory is set in the area I lived for more than 16 years when I first arrived in Switzerland many years ago, a ski resort in the French-speaking part of the country. Although never once mentioned by name in the novel, the resort of Leysin is the setting for artist Lucie’s torrid love affair with ski teacher and womaniser, Matt. Their union deteriorates into a shaky relationship of increasing mistrust, coercion and deception. But Lucie cannot leave because they have a son together. And then one afternoon something terrible happens.

The present-day part of the story is set in Switzerland’s only all-female prison, Hindelbank, situated north of Bern. The prison required a significant amount of research as I hadn’t been there before, but became fascinated with its history as I began researching where the convicts in my story might be imprisoned. Hindelbank prison is built within the grounds of a magnificent castle, and was originally a work house for disreputable young women. It has a tainted past, and I was able to weave some of these facts into the novel’s narrative. I visited the prison several times, conducted interviews with the prison staff, and was given a tour of the communal and work spaces. For the remaining information about the day-to-day life, routines, philosophy, and the sleeping quarters for the prisoners, I was able to ask the prison director and she willingly shared the information I required. I even bought crafted objects made by the prisoners for their annual Christmas market – the Schlossm√§rit – an event I also managed to include in the story.

Although I know my settings intimately, I work hard to bring them to life for the reader. There are some amazing locations in Switzerland for the settings of stories. I like to portray them with a complexity I might award to any of my characters. The geography and climate are as moody as the people I write about.

So I do agree with Mr Twain: Write what you know. But I also believe writers should research what they don’t know to make their novels better.

 Book link:  Amazon

Louise is a compulsive writer and drinker of Prosecco. Her novels, short stories and flash fiction have won prizes, have been placed on several shortlists and read out on BBC radio. Apart from the two novels mentioned above, her short fiction has appeared in Mslexia and Firewords, and in the Hammond House, Brighton Prize, Nivalis, Ellipsis Zine, Bath Flash Fiction, Hysteria, and Reflex Press anthologies. She lives in central Switzerland with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

You can find Louise here:



  1. Very interesting post. Having read Strangers on a Bridge I can attest that Louise gets settings perfectly. I felt as if I knew the place! The next novel is now on my list! (it's a long list)

  2. A great post. Thank you Louise and Wendy. Spookily I've just finished Her Husband's Secrets (though I prefer the original title The Art of Deception, which suited the themes more) and really enjoyed it. For me the setting of the prison was excellent and I loved how Lucie found friendship and bonding with the women there. A cracking winter read!