Monday, April 24, 2006

Place setting

My friend Melanie Hayden blogs today about setting for her novels. Where do you set your novels, and why?

My adult romantic comedy Your Cheatin’ Heart, about a country band gone wild and the record company publicist sent to tame them, is set in Birmingham. Originally I planned to set it in Key West, where I’ve been on vacation three times. But I don’t know Key West like the back of my hand, and I felt that researching the place was getting in the way of my creative process. I couldn’t “see” the events of the novel happening in Key West like I could here. So here the book came. The band shares a mansion in Mountain Brook and plays a Fourth of July Nationally Televised Concert Event at the base of the statue of Vulcan. Setting the novel here worked out well, I thought, because Vulcan’s naked fanny shining over Homewood is the funniest thing ever. You can’t make this stuff up.

The setting of my YA romantic comedy Major Crush was a no-brainer: it happens in a small town on a lake, very much like Alexander City, where I grew up. But my last novel and my WIP take a departure. The setting for my YA romance Boy in Blue, about a 17-year-old who avoids prosecution for a high school stunt by spending spring break assigned to night patrol with the 19-year-old rookie cop who arrested her, is set in a combination of Trussville, Moody, and Chelsea. No one would recognize this town, because it doesn’t exist. But most people would understand the complicated dynamics of a small town that used to be an entity of itself and recently has become part of a larger metropolitan area as the big city reached out to meet it. My WIP, another adult romantic comedy—well, imagine the Germanic tackiness of Helen, Georgia, transplanted to the approximate location of Horse Pens 40. Even though I have never been to these imaginary places, I think I have a good feel for the characters and problems we’d likely find in most Alabama towns.


Carla Swafford said...

A topic close to my heart. NO! Not Vulcan's hinny! But writing books set in Birmingham and surrounding areas -- especially when you live here.

All but one of my books are set in Birmingham. The other is in Atlanta. I love seeing books set in Birmingham. If I remember correctly, Gayle Wilson's next book is set in the Big B-HAM. Yeah Gayle!

Oh, by the way, my buddy, Sande, claims that Vulcan's wearing a thong. Look again. It looks like it now that she's pointed it out. ::g::

jennifer echols said...

If you go up the elevator and get on the walkway right under his thong, only glory.

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, my God! You looked! Up close and personal. LOL! I always had my kids with me and when I was younger...let's say, I wasn't that advanced. Too funny!

jennifer echols said...

Now you've got me interested. Vulcan is working in his forge, so I assume what he's wearing is a smithy apron. It does look like the fastenings at his lower back could lead to a G-string...but...why would your smithy apron need to hug you about the booty? I wish you were still writing History Tidbits, Carla, and then you could solve the mystery of Vulcan's thong in one of your columns.

Carla Swafford said...

Is that a challenge? I accept (not about writing the column) to find out where the artist got his inspiration. Who knows what we will uncover. LOL! I couldn't stop myself from saying that.

Paula said...

Sorry to interrupt the fascinating discussion of the Moon over Homewood, ;) but back to the settings question...

So far, the books I've written have been set in the south but only two, so far, have been set in Birmingham. I tend to write fictional towns based on real cities or amalgams of cities and towns.

For instance, Borland, Alabama, the setting for FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, is completely fictional, but I based it on a town the size of Gadsden, in that general vicinity. The sequel, DANGEROUS PURSUIT, is set completely in Birmingham.

CRYBABY FALLS was set in a fictional county that rougly corresponded to DeKalb County, Alabama. WILD CARD was set in a tiny fictional town west of Savannah, Georgia that was like every small southern town I've ever been to. CODE NAME: WILLOW takes place in Spanish Fort, across southern Mississippi, and finally ends up in New Orleans. I've been to most of those places and can combine my experiences with research to make it work.

The book I'm about to start, the third in the FT/DP series, will be my first venture outside the American south. It's set on a fictional island in the southern Caribbean and is more of a thriller, with mild political overtones, than anything I've written yet.

Having never been to the Caribbean, I'll have some research to do, but making it a fictional place makes it a lot easier to create my own island, with its own culture and my choice of languages and political situations.