Real Places in Books

ribbletonhouseHere’s a dilemma. My latest book I am working on has three orphans escaping from their orphanage and trying to reach the seaside town of Lyme Regis in Dorset on Britain’s south coast. The journey they take is not straightforward and has the three escapees visiting many real  places. I describe their encounters with farmers, policemen, English Heritage sites and existent towns along the way.  Now I come to a forest and I wish to have the characters stumble across a fine old rambling mansion, in which something mysterious and dangerous is taking place.  The problem comes when I wish to name the real house. For an actual place exists in the location I have placed my protagonists, but the country manor is not how I have described, for example, ruinous and tumbled down as my plot requires. Also, I have a bunch of undesirable thugs living there, which in reality, I am sure is not the case.

Although I could put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book to say all the characters and situations are fictitious, and then go ahead and name the place (so that keen readers can follow the exact journey on a UK map) I have no wish to be sued or get into trouble. Therefore, as it matters little to the story, I have simply changed the name of the house. So far so is easy.

But, I wonder, what would happen if you want to write about an old country mansion that has a definite historic background, but which is now privately owned, yet the fictional plot requires referring to  the owners of that house in a derogatory nature.

The first draft of my children’s novel should be finished in a month or so and the final book on offer later this year.