Friday, June 26, 2009

I feel like I've been there

The mark of a really good author, to me at least, is if she/he is able to make me feel like I've been to wherever her/his story is set -- even if I haven't. My affinity for this aspect of stories came early with the woods and prairies of Little House on the Prairie, the lonely Alaskan landscape in Julie of the Wolves, and the East Indies of The Swiss Family Robinson.

My love of setting as character today can be found in the books that I keep on my limited keeper shelf. Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mystery series, which takes readers to various national parks and their differing landscapes -- from the remote canyons of Big Bend in Texas to the humid lushness of the Natchez Trace in Mississippi to the still-to-be-refurbished ruins on New York's Ellis Island. Another mystery author who is a master at making setting a character is Dana Stabenow, who has made the Alaskan bush so real to me in her Kate Shugak series that I'd almost swear I've been there.

And the settings don't have to be real places for them to come alive. J.R. Ward's Caldwell, New York in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series is very real in its dark, dangerous and urban way. And Nora Roberts did such a masterful job describing her fictional island in her Three Sisters Island trilogy that I still want to go there. My sister and I decided we wanted to run the bookstore/cafe combo that figures prominently in the novels.

Those of us who write for Harlequin American often shine the spotlight on charming small towns. It's fun to incorporate aspects of small towns I've visited all over the country -- a bakery from here, a landscape from there, a park from somewhere else.

Who are some of the authors and books that struck you as having very real settings, ones that are a character in and of themselves?


housemouse88 said...

I just read a book here recently that led me to a place I had never read about. It was Egypt. The book, "The Falcon & The Dove is by Bonnie Vanak. She took me on a journey I will never forget. Have a great day.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I've heard good things about Bonnie's books. I think I have one of them. She's a friend of a friend. I really do like to read stories in what to me are exotic locales, places I'm likely never to visit.

Anonymous said...

Hy, Trish Milburn Really I got lot of good things by this book.. thngs.. I like to see all those things

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