Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Temptation Tuesday:: Location, Location, Location...
This Tuesday at The Pink Heart Society we are pleased to welcome Harlequin Romance author Barbara McMahon, who is here to talk to us about... Location, location, location
When I first started writing, ages ago actually, I tried to incorporate the setting of the novel as an integral part of the story--almost another character if you would. I did oodles of research, visited whenever I could, and really tried to get the feel of the place integrated into every aspect. It’s important to me that a reader can identify with a locale and feel part of it as she immerses herself into the story. I don’t want the flow to be interrupted while a reader struggles to imagine what the setting is.
Since Harlequin Romances are distributed in a world market, I try to keep in mind that not everyone is familiar with the same places I am. If a woman lives in a small town in Norway, can she easily envision and relate to the arid land of Arizona in summer? If a reader lives in Japan, can she relate to written words describing Key West in Florida? The world had grown smaller in many ways with the universality of television shows and the Internet. So the answer is--maybe.
To seamlessly integrate setting to me means painting pictures in people’s minds that clearly gives them the visual aspect as well as the feel of a locale. It’s harder to describe Manhattan, Kansas, to someone who has never been there, than it is to describe Manhattan, New York. There are large cities in almost every nation, so people have a concept of that and can easily relate. Small town America is different from a small village in Andulucia. Activities on a ranch in Wyoming are vastly different from working in a bakery in Tuscany.
In an attempt to make it easy for readers to picture the locale, I try to use places I think have a universal appeal. I love San Francisco, it’s my favorite city. And not just because I once lived there. I also love New York, but for different reasons. And London and Rome. Japan is a favorite country of mine. When writing a book set in what is to me a foreign location, I usually use places I have visited. No amount of study from books or the Internet can substitute for the vibrant feel of a place.
Over the years, I’ve gradually changed in how I approach a story. Now I focus more on the interaction between the hero and heroine, but location still plays a role. A captain of industry would be out of place in a small town in Wyoming. Is that the situation I want to create? Sometimes a “stranger in a strange land” is the exact situation I’m striving for. Other times, it just isn’t right. Most dynamic businessmen live in dynamic major cities--such as London or New York. The west coast sensibility is different from America’s east coast, and I try to play that up as an aspect of the book. So in the end, the people in the book reflect where they live. There may be a universal appeal, which I do hope is true, but the setting influences their lives.
One dream for many harried Americans is to move back to a small town, embrace a more tranquil life. Reality is quite different. It can be too quiet if a person is used to amenities a large city offers. But this dream is not necessarily that of everyone--even in America. A woman in London may fantasied more about traveling then moving to a bucolic prairie town. A woman in Paris may wish to move to the Riviera. Actually, some American women fantasize about moving to the Riviera. I try to keep all that in mind when writing. I want the book to have as much appeal to everyone as possible.
So as a reader, what do you think about location? Does it matter at all? Do you like to read about places you know, or about locales you have never explored? Do you want the setting to be integral to the story, or is it merely a place to have them live, but the real action is in the conflict, motivation and ultimate goal of the protagonists? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Barbara's latest release for the Romance line is The Pregnancy Promise and it's out RIGHT NOW in the USA, Canada, the UK and Ireland.
To find out more about Barbara and her books you can visit her Website