Friday, September 15, 2017

What We're Writing: The Perfect Setting by Ingrid Thoft


"What are you writing these days?"

It's the question that can elicit either dread or elation
, depending upon where you are in the process.  These days, I'm somewhere in the middle of that continuum, although the constant is that I never feel I'm writing enough.  I remind myself that is a common affliction among writers!

I always consult the best reference books!
To answer the question, I’m writing a stand alone suspense/thriller, a departure from my Fina Ludlow series.  I still can’t tell you much about it, but I can tell you that the process has been daunting at times, but mostly exciting.  It’s been liberating to create a new universe populated by an original cast of characters.  I don’t have to worry about adhering to the rules of Fina Ludlow's world, which gives me a lot more wiggle room.

The new book is entitled SUBMERGED, and it’s set in an idyllic town on the New England coast.  Two families, who are neighbors, are bonded through friendship and time, but they find their charmed lives shattered by a violent event.  I look forward to telling you more in the coming months!Like my Fina Ludlow books, I’ve set this one in Massachusetts, where I was born and raised.  Many people have asked why I don’t set a book in Seattle, my home for the past ten years.  As much as I love my adopted hometown, I don't feel quite ready to use it as a setting.  Not yet.



Many of the Reds write about far flung destinations, but I admit to feeling intimidated by the prospect of writing a book where the action unfolds in an unfamiliar location. There’s something about the place where you grew up—where you learned to drive, had your first kiss, cheered for the home team—that would be challenging to replicate.  Obviously, writers do so with great success, and perhaps once I get this stand alone under my belt, I’ll feel inspired to choose a brand-new setting!




For the writers out there, how do you choose your setting?  Is it a place you’ve lived or visited or do you branch out to the unknown?

And for everyone, where would you set a book if time and money were no obstacle in the research process?


35 comments:

  1. I agree with you, Ingrid . . . there’s definitely something special about the place you grew up. And so, even if time and money were no obstacle to research, I still think I’d set a book where I grew up.

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    1. Remind me where you grew up, Joan?

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    2. I spent a lot of time in point Pleasant too Joan--we would often rent a little beach cottage in Seaside Heights

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  2. I think Deb and Rhys have figured out the coolest ways possible to take tax-deductible vacations to far-flung places, but I stick close to home when I write fiction, not because I'm not intrigued by exotic locales, but because I'm really fascinated and inspired by the history and social norms of the places I live. As for locales I'd like to read about, the truth is I'm usually more drawn to the characters and the puzzle of a book, rather than the setting itself. Julia Keller's West Virginia setting is amazingly well-drawn, and I enjoy reading her books in small doses, but that doesn't mean I want to read books set in West Virginia. I have been thinking lately of Bermuda, and what it's like to live on an island with little arable land, but I'm equally happy to look forward to another of Lucy's Key West stories. As long as the author knows and loves the place she or he writes about, I'm happy to go along for the ride.

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    1. That's an interesting comment about Julia Keller and West Virginia, Gigi. It really does show that the best writers--with terrific characters--can make any place come alive!

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  3. Very excited about your book, Ingrid! I'll be glad when you can tell us more.

    As for setting, even with unlimited time and money, I'd still set my books in the UK. It's the only place I've ever wanted to set stories, although it is challenging to write from an intimate viewpoint about a culture that isn't yours from birth. But it's also great fun, and I'm certainly not the first writer to "adopt" a country.

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    1. Of course I was thinking of you and Rhys, Debs, when I wrote this! You both do such an amazing job of creating a sense of place. I remember when I first learned that you were from Texas; huh?! But she has to be English!

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  4. I'm excited about the new book, too! And I know that feeling of imagining a whole new set of characters and their issues. I keep setting series in very familiar places - except for my historical mysteries. They're set in my town, sure, but 130 years ago. Much that is unfamiliar about that era!

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    1. Setting something 130 years ago is practically a whole new setting, Edith. Does your town have good historical resources? I would be just as intimidated by that as by a completely new location!

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  5. Ingrid, I so relate to what you say about setting -- writing about where you grew up is like tapping a vein. Sort of. Though if only if it were that easy and un-painful. Submerged. Suggests all kinds of mysteries.

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    1. Tapping a vein, indeed! Not always a good thing, I suppose!

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  6. I always want to know where the book is set and I get frustrated if it is too "generic". Maybe it's the map lover in me. I really like learning about other places but if the story is set in my upstate NY it better be faithful to the place. I love to read books set in places I have visited and places I hope to go someday. One area I had never considered at all was Lake Tahoe. And then I read Todd Borg's books and cannot wait to go there!

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    1. So how do you feel about fictionalized towns, Judi, in real states? Or is it more a matter of having the elements of the town ring true to the state?

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    2. Fictionalized towns are okay but yes the elements of the town need to ring true to the state. Good distinction; glad you helped me clarify my thoughts.

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  7. This is so fabulous! And I cannot wait to read all about it…

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  8. Oops pushed publish too soon. But let me say that I am terrified by setting… and the manuscripts I read recently from beginning authors are such proof of how important setting is-- because several of them simply did not have any at all. And I would write on their pages: where are they? where are they? What does it look like and why are they there?
    And it's such a balance of using this key element and making it be integral to the story but not distractingly so. .
    Submerged! Hurray! ( Plus, it sounds like an Ingrid title, but couldn't be a Fina title. Brilliant.)

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    1. Thanks, Hank! I love the idea that it's an Ingrid title, but not a Fina title!

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  9. How authors manage to capture place and time fascinates me. As Judi said, generic settings are relatively uninteresting. Long before I ever left Ohio I was a die-hard armchair traveler, and the richer the setting details the better, for me.

    Colin Cotterill, who was born in Great Britain, but also has Australian citizenship, is a writer who manages this very well. He has series set in Laos and in southern Thailand, both where he has lived at least briefly.

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    1. I'm not familiar with Colin Cotteril's books. More for the TBR pile. Thanks, Karen!

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  10. Great title, Ingrid! Intriguing, for sure.

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  11. Very exciting!

    So far, I've only used familiar locations - where I live now for my contemporary novels and where I grew up for the historical I'm working on (I do have a short story in a fictional WV town, but it's not that different from outside Pittsburgh, but I digress).

    I'd love to set something in Alaska or Hawaii (hey, you did say time and money were no obstacle to research).

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I'm with you on Hawaii, but I would worry about how much writing would actually get done!

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  12. As a fellow map lover, I agree that I need to know setting. I love it when a novel contains a map of the area where the story takes place, and I will refer to it as I read the book.

    I also enjoy reading books set in places where I have visited. Often before I visit a place for the first time, I'll read fiction set in the area I plan to visit, as well as non-fiction about the place. If time and money were no obstacle, I think I'd like to set a book in Israel, which I visited in 1978. Right now I'm reading non-fiction by an author about his extended visit there, and it's bringing back happy memories of my own visit.

    DebRo

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    1. That's such a great idea to read a book about a place before you visit. I've tended to do the opposite, but I imagine reading it first enriches your experience of the place.

      Maybe I should be reading one of Ausma Zehanat Khan's in advance of Bouchercon!

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  13. Submerged. What a great title! I was late to the game in discovering your work, Ingrid, but now I have and I'm all caught up and looking forward to Submerged.

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  14. One of the comments I'm always making about Debs' Duncan and Gemma series is that it makes a fantastic travel guide to London (and some points beyond). I enjoy the different areas of London featured in these books, and today I saw that you, Debs, had posted a photo of Portobello Road, where you are today. I first fell in love with this place through your books. I haven't been to London or England, but I do plan a future trip and will visit many of the places featured in this series. I do keep hinting at a tour for Jungle Red blog participants, but so far, Debs hasn't taken the suggestion. Hahaha!

    Another setting that I fell in love with because of a Jungle Red author is the Adirondacks from Julia's series. When I attended my first Bouchercon in Albany in 2013, meeting the Jungle Red authors was a priority, and after the conference, my travel friend and I took a trip to Niagara Falls. Because I was so enthralled with the Adirondacks, we took a side trip to drive through some of those and eat lunch at an inn on the Great Sacandaga Lake. Such a thrill!

    Speaking of settings, Scotland is a favorite setting for me to read about, and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is one of my favorite set there. But, I am still gobsmacked that Gabaldon had never been to Scotland when she wrote her first Outlander book. Of course, she has remedied that many times since.

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    1. I feel the same way about Debs' books: they completely transport me to London, and I also love learning about the different neighborhoods. I'm surprised a tour company has jumped on the idea of doing a Duncan and Gemma walking tour!

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  15. But Ingrid, you could write the Seattle setting from the point of view of a newcomer. You are not from California, Seattle joke, the citizens would forgive you.

    World building without also creating a strong sense of place makes it hard for me to be interested in a plot. I want to know what the characters are seeing as well as what they are saying to each other. I am a map reader too. I can see where Hank's characters are going because they are moving in real space. Actually, now that I think of it, almost all of you write in this manner.

    Where would I go to write my mystery? The San Juan Islands, specifically Roche Harbor. My book has been sitting in my head for over 50 years. Perhaps it is time to move it onto paper.

    I was without power until last night @ 10PM, so I could not comment on Julia's loss.
    I am deeply sorry that the world has lost another hero; one that should be publicly as well as privately mourned. My condolences.

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    1. You are so right, Coralee! I'm not from the dreaded California, so any errors might be forgiven!

      I think you should start putting that book idea down on paper. If not now, when? And the San Juans would be an amazing setting.

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  16. I forgot to mention, one of the hardest things about Irma was knowing I had You'll Never Know Dear AND Her Royal Spyness waiting to download and not having any electricity.

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  17. Since all my books have Brooklyn in the title, I guess that is a giveaway about the importance of setting. Many people are surprised that I am not a Brooklyn native, but in fact I grew up in the far north of the state, in a small (very small) city, in dairy and forest country. I've lived in Brooklyn a long time though, and I like to think it gives me both the knowledge of an insider and the objectivity of an outsider. (I hope!) My first published book - almost anather life now- was about my home town, though, and every so often I write a story about it. The real question is: did I make a mistake iwth... Brooklyn instead of Paris? Or London? Or Istanbul? :-)

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    1. There's still time, Triss! Any one of those cities would be amazing!

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