Monday, December 5, 2016

Setting a Book Where You Live

I envy people who lived in one place for years and had a natural following of friends. I've had that, but I move a lot, so the hometown elements vanishes. The friends I keep.

Then I had a major Duh Moment. If I set books where I live now, I meet more friends.I was a bit late for Iowa, the River's Edge series came out after my husband I left the state. (Still root for the Hawkeyes!)

2006 Ottumwa signing, with Alberta
Even so, my Iowa friends rallied for the first book in the 2015 series. KTVO television did a fun interview, and the Ottumwa Courier and Van Buren County Register in Keosauqua featured From Newsprint to Footprints. The book felt like home, even though home had moved.

It's not all about publicity. It's fun to have your friends read your books and ask how the writing is going. Especially fun when your book club reads them. You also learn a lot about your neighbors. The photo at left shows the late Alberta Lambeth. Because of a book that came out ten years ago, she invited me to her apartment to see some of her incredible craft creations. Art takes many forms, and I would not have seen hers unless I promoted my stories.

As I wished for more contact with reading and writing friends, I was starting a new book, Tip a Hat to Murder. For some (inexplicable) reason, I initially set it in Nebraska. Perhaps because of good-natured ribbing with a cousin who roots for the Corn Huskers.

Then I thought, "Why am I setting this in Nebraska? I live in Illinois now!" Thus was born the fictional town of Logland, Illinois, set in south central Illinois. Why Logland? Because Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, and I played with Lincoln Logs as a kid. The path through a writer's mind has many curves. Plus, the book is meant to be wacky.

So, I have now murdered people in New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, and Bath, England. I only kill people in places I like.

I love to take pictures, which means local books are a big plus. Though my towns are fictional, the images in my head are not, largely because I drive through Iowa and Illinois a lot. Not so much New Jersey, but I asked a friend to take photos of the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk this summer, so I have a new crop to feed my imagination. As I start a new book in the Jolie Gentil series, those boardwalk scenes become even more delightful.
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