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THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTINGS
My favorite books all have intriguing settings. I don’t mean they’ve necessarily had unusual settings, just that the action/story has taken place in locations that add to the overall impact of the book.
Take one of my keepers, Falling Hard and Fast by Kylie Brant, published in 1999. It is timeless because one of the protagonists in the book is the setting itself—the humid, slow as molasses creeping heat of the Louisiana summer. All throughout the book Kylie interposes little snippets like ‘The Stew ‘N Brew didn’t run to the healthier menu choices. Most of their selections featured deep-fat-fried entrées dripping with gravy. But their gumbo, Zoey had quickly learned, was out of this world.’
Can’t you just see the steamy, fatty-smelling kitchen out the back where the cook wipes his brow with a dishcloth, and out front the patrons sit in air-conditioned comfort conversing with laconic unsentimentality?
Another excerpt reads ‘Pulling up in front of Charity’s lone department store, she got out of the car and felt the slap of solid heat that thickened the air and squeezed the lungs.’ You can just imagine that heat weighing down on your shoulders. I particularly like that ‘slap of heat.’ Sets the tone nicely, even foretells a darkening of the story.
Many suspense and thriller writers use their characters’ foibles and the sultry weather of the southern states in their stories e.g. Beverley Barton’s Dying Game (Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama), Sandra Brown’s Breath of Scandal (South Carolina) and Nora Roberts’ Tribute (Virginia).
But setting is not just a place. Setting can be weather or a particular era or an otherworld. One of my favorite settings is JD Robb’s futuristic New York in 2058. It’s even tougher and edgier than today’s NY, yet Robb (Roberts) has been careful not to overload the reader with too many details. A simple brushstroke here and there such as the overhead transports that belch fumes thirty feet above pedestrians’ heads is all it takes to drag the reader into the smog and cacophony of NY 2058.
As for Jayne Ann Krentz’s (Castle’s) futuristic setting for the Dreamlight Trilogy, where mankind has left Earth and established other colonies and where anything old brought from Earth is considered a valuable antique, it couldn’t work without the creation of the world of Harmony.
Many fascinating settings are found in historical novels. Think of the Regency era where people could communicate with the flick of a fan or by raising an eyebrow. A raised eyebrow could mean ‘I share your joke’ or it could be used to dampen pretension. The Victorian era, full of vice and licentiousness but with its overall layer of ultra-respectability, is often depicted by women wearing constricting corsets, crowded markets where pickpockets abound and Bow Street Runners became superseded by Scotland Yard.
The flavor of a book is determined by its setting.
What settings do you enjoy? What don’t you like and why? Do they remind you of a bad time in your life? Or do you find that particular time and place uninteresting? If you think about it, your attitude towards a setting might say more about you than the book itself.
Vonnie is a New Zealander living in Australia. She loves animals and jogging. She writes Regencies and romantic suspense novels and short stories. See her full bio on www.vonniehughes.com She is presently working on a romantic suspense, working title: Innocent Hostage and a Regency novella, working title: A Tale of Two Sisters.
Her earliest book is still available. It’s called COMING HOME and is about a soldier and a nurse, thrown together during the Napoleonic wars, who find more danger on their return to England than they ever did on the Iberian Peninsula. As well as in hardback, this can now be bought in e-book form from her Amazon site http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Vonnie+Hughes&x=18&y=20
THE SECOND SON, e-published by MUSA is actually a prequel to COMING HOME.
On January 13, 2012, The Wild Rose Press published both as a paperback and an e-book, Vonnie’s romantic suspense LETHAL REFUGE, which is set in New Zealand. An independent, mistrusting woman witnesses a murder and is thrown into the witness protection program. There she meets a police psychologist who demands complete trust from all the relocatees so he can help them adapt to their new lives. Fur flies when they are stalked by the killer who seems to be connected to the relocation team. Also available on Amazon here:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Vonnie+Hughes&x=18&y=20
Another Regency Historical, MR. MONFORT’S MARRIAGE, was e-published by MUSA on January 27, 2012. Matthew Monfort is a businessman who is inveigled into marrying an earl’s daughter. With good reason he loathes the ton, so his new wife needn’t think she’s going to win him over, even though she’s quite delightful…and intelligent…and sweet…However Verity shows him that not all members of the ton are idle layabouts and that he can do much good with his largesse and with—shock, horror—the unexpected and embarrassing title conferred on him by Prinny.
Stop by tomorrow for Sunday's for the Birds.