Rain or Shine: designing setting

I'm slowly archiving posts I wrote for other blogs. Here is a blog post I wrote for the now defunct StoryBlog in April 2013.

If you were to check out the cover of my new book, SHINE:

… or watch the book trailer -

You would quickly realize that there is a weather vibe going on. Specifically: RAIN.

It took me three years to write SHINE – and while in that time, characters and plot and motivation changed constantly, there was one thing that never did – the setting.

SHINE takes place on an island called Mirasol where it never stops raining.

I’d been thinking about rain a lot because back in the Philippines, there had been a series of terrible floods, worse than the worst floods we regularly experience.

Large parts of Manila had been swallowed by water, my mother’s piano floated at the bottom of the stairs, bumping up against my brother’s fridge, and another brother watched from his fourth story apartment as roads and cars and houses and animals disappeared under the thick grey flood. I had never realized how disaster-prone the Philippines was until I moved to disaster-resistant London.

Rain and Flood in the Philippines

I was also thinking about rain because that winter, I started re-reading my Ray Bradbury book of short stories and rain seemed to be on the old man’s mind. Embedded in the collection were short stories with titles like The Long Rain, A Sound of Thunder, The Day it Rained Forever and Farewell Summer.

My forever favourite of Bradbury’s ouvre is All Summer in a Day – a story set on rainswept Venus where children grow up knowing only wet weather. When a girl born on Earth shows up, they despise her for remembering what sunshine felt like. Every seven years, the sun shone for just an hour – the hour was fast approaching, and they hated the Earth-born girl all the more for the way she stood so separate from them, KNOWING.

Screenshot from a 1982 TV short of All Summer in a Day. You can watch it on YouTube here but you’ve GOT to read the short story first!

“It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again. And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus …” from All Summer in a Day

And if this was the way life was forever, what did it do to those who lived it? They may have yearned for change but in that yearning there was fear too … a fear of the unknown.

This past month, it’s been interesting to watch reactions to the UK’s unexpected summer of sun.

There was joy in many quarters, but there was also resistance and irritation. Too hot! The complaining that inundated social media left people outside the UK puzzled and perplexed.

In SHINE my characters cling to the rain. It’s a comfort, a constant, a steady drip-drip that nobody wants to turn off because the alternative might be unbearable. They live in a world where the story is fixed, and any deviation might lead to danger. The island they live in is a crucible, a trap, a prison.


There’s nothing like putting a bunch of characters into a prison. Some of them will want to get out. The ones who don’t want to escape will have to stand and fight. This is the stuff of a good story!

About SHINE: Rosa suffers from a rare condition that renders her mute. She lives on the strange island of Mirasol where the rain never seems to stop. In the gloom of the island, its superstitious population are haunted by all sorts of fears … they shun people who suffer from Rosa’s condition, believing them to be monsters who could bring misfortune and ruin to the remote island. So Rosa must live a hidden life in an isolated house with its back to the rest of the world, with only the internet for a social life. But Rosa has no desire to leave Mirasol. This is where her mother died and every night she lights a candle on the window sill. The islanders believe this is the way to summon ghosts, and Rosa wants her mother back. One day she is befriended by a boy online who calls himself Ansel95 – and she quickly realizes that this is one friendship that can take place in the real world. Can she really trust him? What does he want from her? Should they meet? And then Mother turns up at the front door.