Silence is Also a Lie is not quite contemporary fiction. There’s a dystopian fantasy element to the novel, but it’s rooted in real landscapes and cityscapes, and I wanted to make those as authentic and specific as I could. So writing involved a lot of location scouting, both in London and further afield: identifying and getting to know the places where Ash and Zara live, meet and fall in love… Some of this exploration was done with maps and StreetView, but as much as possible I went to places in real life. I spent a lot of time tramping streets in London, and followed the story further afield to key places outside the city – most importantly to Little Gidding which gained in importance as I wrote: becoming a place of both emotional and dramatic significance in the novel.
Hampstead Heath and the surrounding streets
The Heath’s huge: he thinks of her running across it, in the dark, alone. Anything could happen to her.
They jog down the path onto the Heath and break into
a proper run, dodging puddles, walkers, dogs, other kids
on shiny bikes. They head into the wood: it’s quieter here,
and Zara speeds up; he matches her. Faster, faster: he counts
his footfalls, converting the number of paces to distance,
but all the time he’s aware of her, all the way through the
woods and out onto the slope that runs down to the ponds.
There’s a prehistoric mound here (he thinks it’s prehistoric;
he doesn’t really know) covered in dark trees, surrounded by
iron railings. They stop, stretch, and sit on the bench that
commemorates someone or other who loved this view.
“The dog needs a proper run. You OK to come to the park?”
She glances at him, meeting his grey-blue eyes. No, she
thinks, yes, no. “Yes,” she says, and they carry on to the
park, climbing to the view point that overlooks London. The
towers in the city are grey on grey in the misted air; it’s the
sort of view that Sophie would have photographed.
…a carpark under trees, a white house and a small brick church in an
overgrown graveyard. “Ash,” Zara says again, and he feels a
sudden lift. It’s OK; it’s the right thing to have given her.