Saturday, January 14, 2012

Location, location, location

Where Do You Like a Book Located?

by June Shaw

When you read a book, do you care about the location of the story? Do you care whether the location is a real place or not?

I don't care about either.

Having said that, I consider a few books where I've cared, and where I prefer for the location to be real.

There are the Barbara Colley mysteries that feature a maid in the New Orleans famed Garden District. Those of us fortunate enough to have been in that area around the gorgeous monstrous homes can envision each house even more beautiful than the next one -- and a maid discovering what happens within their confines. These cozies are excellent reads for the stories and their unique people and setting.

Tell us only that a mystery is set in New Orleans, and readers' minds conjure various expectations. If it includes Bourbon Street, we have one mindset of what will occur and what we'll see. Tell us part of your story will take place in one of the cemeteries with large, above-ground tombs, and we'll envision one thing. Maybe shootings around the tombs. Maybe witches coming from them. Or zombies. How about voodoo?

Almost all of us can list large numbers of mysteries set in Los Angeles. New York. Chicago. Are any of them cozies? I haven't read one yet. A large majority of stories set in those states feature detectives and real, well-known streets and buildings.

Okay, it seems I do know what to expect from mysteries in many real places, and I do enjoy knowing what to expect.

I also realize I enjoy stories in which the author creates a setting, a community, the town's stores and streets. I have done both in my mystery series. I set the first book in a town I created outside Chicago, where I've enjoyed visiting. I love the Gatlinberg area and set the second book in a fictional place near there. I adore taking cruies, especially to Alaska, so gosh, guess the most recent place I needed to bring my spunky widowed protagonist and the hunky lover she tries to avoid so she can rediscover herself? (Of course the cruise line is fictional, although the ship's staff members enjoyed answering my questions like, "Where's a good place to find a body?")

Lots of readers here in south Louisiana have asked why I haven't set my books down here. Gosh, would it be more fun researching my city or a cruise ship?

We'll see. I am considering writing a future book or so set down here. And since Swamp People on the History Channel has become so popular, I might even give names of the real locations. Of course that's one of the things that's so enjoyable with writing fiction. We can decide and discover where we are and what will happen. I can't wait to find out what's coming up next in my books.

How about you? Do you like to read -- or write -- about a real location?

12 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

June, I like to read mysteries set in exotic locations to learn more about the areas. That's why I placed my two protagonists in a motorhome to travel about the country to places where I drove my own motorhome. I loved New Orleans during Mardi Gras and the entire gulf coast. So someday Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty will take their RV there.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I like to read about real settings just as I like to see them in movies. Either I learn something or I can relate -- either way is fine. I use real settings in my stories for that reason.

Susan Santangelo said...

For me, it's a little bit of both. I was attracted recently to a mystery by Mary Moody, A Killing In Antiques,because the cover art included a banner for the Brimfield Antiques Fair, a major MA collectibles show that I've always wanted to visit. I may never get there, but the book gave me an insider's peek at the show. But sometimes, when authors use a fictional setting, it's fun to try and figure out what the setting is based on. My two cents.

Susan Santangelo said...

For me, it's a little bit of both. I was attracted recently to a mystery by Mary Moody, A Killing In Antiques,because the cover art included a banner for the Brimfield Antiques Fair, a major MA collectibles show that I've always wanted to visit. I may never get there, but the book gave me an insider's peek at the show. But sometimes, when authors use a fictional setting, it's fun to try and figure out what the setting is based on. My two cents.

June Shaw said...

Jean, so glad you enjoy our area and change your books' locations, too. Having your protagonists in a motorhome is the perfect for that.

June Shaw said...

Mark, I often find that I'm enjoying real settings also. I like to know more about them.

June Shaw said...

Susan, you do make a good point. I enjoy getting to learn more about an event or place I'd like to visit and also like to guess the names of cities authors might be hiding.

Bill Kirton said...

In mystery writing, the preference for real settings has taken over from the fictitious places such as those created here in the UK by Ruth Rendell and the late Reginald Hill. When I first started, I knew I'd be making critical remarks about some police officers, so I decided to put them in a fictitious place, but keep it near Aberdeen. In fact, the year after the first one was published, there was a scandal involving the Chief Constable of the real Grampian force which was far beyond anything I'd have risked inventing. I won't recount it save to say that his escapades in the local woods earned him the nickname Forest Hump.

Carola said...

I've read several cozy series set in LA and New York. The only one I can actually remember the name of the author is Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie books. Of course, it all depends on your definition of cozy. By some definitions, Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series would count--he doesn't go in for graphic violence or sex.

Ben Small said...

I really get bored when authors give me a street-by-street journey through a large city like Los Angeles. I prefer to go to foreign or lesser known areas for my locations. I skip through street-by-street descriptions, especially when they're in a city mostly known for concrete. Same for Vegas. I stay away from books set in Vegas. Don't want to go there, don't want to write or read about it. Nothing to with morality. I just don't gamble and I don't need all the bright lights. I'll read New York based novels, but not Miami based. Just personal preference.

Jaden Terrell said...

I like books with a strong sense of place, but I don't much care what that place is. One writer who sets the scene incredibly well is William Kent Krueger. When he writes about snow, you can feel the chill.

Carola said...

This is a link to my guest post on a blog devoted to the choice of settings:

http://cathiedunn.blogspot.com/2012/02/my-place-carola-dunn.html