So begins Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier's classic novel of romantic suspense. Manderley, of course, is the English country home of the heroine's new husband, and Du Maurier makes this house a vivid and very real character in the novel.
I have always given serious thought to where my characters live. The heroine of one story lives in a French Provencial-style home in the Caribbean. I knew exactly what it looked like on the inside but couldn't quite visualize the outside. One day, my daughter and I were driving through a nearby suburb, and I spotted it. I was floored. I knew this was my heroine's house. (The next time we were going through that neighborhood, I brought the camera and made her take pictures as I drove by very slowly. She was mortified and convinced we were going to be arrested.)
Another house I found on the Outer Banks. At the time I saw it, I was still planning my story. It was a brand new mansion, and I happened upon it while they were having an open house. The real estate agent wouldn't let me take pictures, but I found it online later, which helped me save the details. Eventually I figured out why my heroine lived there, and it was the perfect house for her.
The Gamble House (above) in Pasadena, California, is another house I am in love with. I don't know which of my characters will live there, but one will someday.
How about you? How important are your characters' dwelling places?