Finding Inspiration in the smallest of Bars

Having finally decided that this blog is best used for my musings on locations and buildings influencing my writing, I push the on-going Grunters saga to the back of my mind and look at a few pictures I took in my beloved Schwäbisch Hall instead.  I used to own a flat there, until cancer put a stop to my happy nesting.

Before some of you, who have just received my Willow the Vampire blog, start groaning, please don’t panic, I’ll only update this blog every Thursday from now on!

Just prior to being diagnosed with cancer I attended a writing class at Cardiff University’s Lifelong Learning Centre and there I met my two best friends, a couple of accomplished lady writers and two of the kindest souls one could ever hope to meet. Another member of our small class, Ollie, later became a friend of one of the lady’s husbands.

Young writer Ollie, who by now has probably graduated from his film making/scriptwriting course, was the reason I took this first photo. While in Germany, that very morning I’d received an email from my friend in Wales, telling me of Ollie’s various exploits…later that day, strolling through the town centre looking for a place to have a meal, I came across a small establishment I hadn’t noticed before. Picture my surprise when I looked up and saw the name: Olli’s Bar!


Sunday (Photo credit: ex.libris)

Initially I only took a photograph of the bar to send it to my friend. Later, however, the discovery of the small bar in the heart of historic Schwäbisch Hall prompted me to go around and take lots of pictures on an icy cold Sunday morning, when everybody sensible was tucked up in their warm bed, still dreaming of breakfast and a Sunday paper that contained only good news for a change.

It struck me how the narrow layout of the streets and courtyards could be used to great effect in a story and how compiling a scrapbook of my own pictures and detailed descriptions of historic houses could help me turn the location and its buildings into another “character” in my sci-fi novel about three time-travelling kids.

The great thing about using historic towns or cities as a background to a story is that often there’s a plethora of fascinating stuff one can find out at the local library or Historical Society. In some cases, where a locally prominent family dynasty had lived in a building, there was a whole family tree available with anecdotes and drawings, early photographs and family letters into the bargain.

How better to bring a time-travelling novel to life than using real life events that happened during the time in which the story is set (suitably altered to protect the innocent, of course…)?


Even better, these are stories about real people, who led ordinary lives, not kings and queens or emperors and their Machiavellian mischief, courtly intrigue and political machinations.

If you wanted to write a story about time-travelling into the past, which historic town or city would you choose for background inspiration?

(NB: Please don’t all choose VENICE!)


10 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in the smallest of Bars

  1. i was reading this and saw “cardiff” and “leipzig” and thought that maybe you lived near me. then i read more carefully and saw that it wasn’t possible. but the reason i thought so is because there is a town near me called cardiff and there’s a road there called leipzip avenue. interesting.

    • Well, to clarify, I live in Cardiff in Wales, UK, but I was born in Germany. I’ve spent more than 50% of my life here in UK, but dream of going back in the not too distant future. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  2. Well, I have a wip that is set in 1867 and 1914. It’s in New York State, Rochester area. But there is so much out there, so many places. I love use historical sites in my fiction. In the wip I am working on presently I have a chunk of it set in Israel, and of course they visit a lot historical areas. I love it when books link fiction to ‘real’ life.

    • That sounds very interesting indeed (Oh Mr Rochester, just because I’m small, obscure and whatever…doesn’t mean I want to be the next mad wife in the attic). Sorry, the word Rochester always prompts me go all “Bronte”. I know what you mean – the real life stories that one reads of families who lived in the historic places are often far more amazing than the stories fiction writers could come up with. Weaving them into our stories makes the plot far more “real” and transports the reader into the period we’re writing about far more effectively than lengthy descriptons I think.

  3. I wouldn’t necessarily choose a specific town, but I was riding a train from DC to Raleigh, NC, and I noticed some really rugged “train towns.” The kind of towns where the buildings where abandoned and gas prices were still lingering at $.99 because no one had changed the signs. And I thought, “Wow. This place has been left behind, but now it is one of the few places in America that culture.”

  4. I adore that building. Have you ever been to Lavenham in Suffolk – if you haven’t, it is enchanting. I have used Venice in Mulgrave Castle because I have been many times and love it. Strange things have happened to me in Prague, so that can be a contender. I adore Barcelona, some of the buildings make me think I am in Poirot. Perhaps, Girona, as it is wonderful and not as well known as some of the others.

    • Goodness! You’ll have material for years to come! No, I haven’t been to Lavenham, yet. I’ll also be using Prague in my time-travelling adventures, I loved it there and wouldn’t mind moving to the city for a year or so.

        • It’s a shame Prague is so expensive with regard to long-term accommodation. Still, if I moved to Nueremberg for a while, I could nip across the border every month to visit Prague for a long weekend. There’s a very cheap luxury coach/rail connection.

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