Thursday, June 10, 2010

I’ve completely run out of ideas for a blog topic this month, so I thought I’d talk about researching settings. My stories for Harlequin American Romance are set in small town Colorado. Now, I don’t know about you, but I just can’t bring myself to set a book somewhere I’ve never actually been, nor that I’m on pretty familiar terms with.

I think it adds authenticity if you can bring the setting alive with sights, sounds and smells thereby capturing the atmosphere of a place. I have no idea how anyone does that without having been where their books are set.

Take it from me, you’ll never read a sheik book by CC Coburn because I have absolutely no interest in travelling to Saudi Arabia et al. Been there (sorta general region) done that, aint goin’ back!

I live part of the year in a small town nestled in the Colorado Rockies and get so much inspiration from this setting that it becomes an integral part of my books—a character, if you will. But I add layers to this setting by interviewing locals who work in the occupations of my characters.

At first, I was a little anxious about approaching people to interview them, half-thinking they’d discount me, as we see so often in the press, as just another hack writer of trashy books.

But the reaction has been quite the opposite. I’ve interviewed a County Court judge, been taken on a tour of the County Jail, interviewed the Sheriff and the commander of our town Fire Department (plus got to check out his firefighters and their quarters!) a veterinarian and a local rancher who all gave up hours of their time to answer my nosy questions. I’ve also interviewed rescue personnel and the head of the local ski patrol.

Each has been so generous in their assistance and supportive of my efforts to bring authenticity to the setting and the occupations of my characters and I’m very grateful for that. I reward their time and patience with a signed copy of the book they’ve so kindly helped me with, and although I’m not sure if they ever get around to reading them, I’m pretty sure they’re chuffed to see their names in the acknowledgement pages.

In a couple of weeks I’m heading back to beautiful Colorado with complimentary signed copies of my latest release, “The Sheriff and the Baby” to give to these wonderful locals.

Now if only I could find a hot ex-priest to interview…

I’m giving away a copy of “The Sheriff and the Baby” to celebrate its release this week. I’d like to know from readers if setting is important to them. And if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Until next month!


Rachael Johns said...

I don't know about your being short of blog topics - this one is fantastic and really timely for me. I prefer to set stories where I've been but I'm writing Modern Heat atm and they're supposed to be set in glamourous urban locations. Where I live is far from that and I haven't been travelling for far too long. My latest book is set in Hollywood - I've NEVER been there and this freaks me out something chronic but the story NEEDS to be there and I haven't been able to get it out of my head.

Love the idea of interviewing locals btw. I'll find you your hot ex-priest if you find me a hot ex-paparazzi photographer.


Anonymous said...

You know, I think I'd like to live in Tasmania. You can drive across it fairly quickly, and the small community life really appeals to me. So does the weather, truth be told. I think I'd be very happy there.

Rosalie said...

I've achieved it! The Grampians. Ten years ago, hubby and I talked about how we could live and work up here. We looked into it, but couldn't work out how we could make a living, afford a place, or even find one back then!
Funny how fate steps in, and unexpectedly plonks you down in that very place. :)
We are working very hard here, but look across at wonderful mountains and never regret all the changes.:)
We're definitely in the most inspiring place.
Now as for the time to write...well... :)

Christina Hollis said...

Like Rosalie, I'm so in love with our little valley it's difficult to imagine living anywhere else (looks out of window at unremitting drizzle) unless it's sundrenched Tuscany, of course!

Suzanne Brandyn said...

If I could live anywhere in the world,well, that's a tough one. I love it where I live, the ocean at my feet the mountains behind. Thinking about it I'd like to live on The Whitsunday Coast. Warm stretches of sand, seafood to die for, and basically a bustling place.

There's a hot ex priest on V, lol :)

Marcy said...

Setting is absolutely important to me as a reader. As you said, it's almost like a secondary character. And as an author-in-training, I completely understand your comfort with only writing about places you've been. Gives us an excuse to travel, right? *G*

Marcy said...

Oh, forgot to add that if I could live anywhere in the world I'd move to California and become a beach bum (but only if I could bring the Canadian health care system with me, but that's a totally separate discussion, LOL).

natasha said...

Setting is important and we'd probably all like to take trips to visit certain locations but children and money are factors. So the next best thing is inventing our own, which I think, is better and funner! We can create a whole town and its people.

And not just because I've never been outside of australia , because I do watch a lot of travel shoes, but I live in the best country in the world! Compared with other countries we're safe, friendly and beautiful. I would never leave.

Estella said...

Setting is not really important to me as long as the characters are strong and the story is well written.

I wouldn't want t live any place but where I am. The Pacific Northwest, 20 miles from the ocean.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi CC--I'm with you on authentic settings. I love your small town Colorado setting with its magnificent mountains, quaint buildings, quirky characters, cute animals and hunky heroes.
My books are set in San Francisco because to me that is the ideal "home" for the characters--both human and doggy--I write about. What a great excuse to visit every year!
I would love to live for a while in Sausalito. And I'd like to visit Colorado too!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi CC--I'm with you on authentic settings. I love your small town Colorado setting with its magnificent mountains, quaint buildings, quirky characters, cute animals and hunky heroes.
My books are set in San Francisco because to me that is the ideal "home" for the characters--both human and doggy--I write about. What a great excuse to visit every year!
I would love to live for a while in Sausalito. And I'd like to visit Colorado too!

Cathleen Ross said...

Is this the book where the virgin ex-priest loses his virginity? I can't wait to read that part - you being such a good taker of virginity and all.
Cathleen Ross

CC Coburn said...

Hi Rachel,
I'm so glad the topic is timely for you. Modern Heat does like ritzy settings. Altho btw I think that line is undergoing yet another name change! You'll jsut have to head off tot he NYC conference next year via LA to research your setting in person.

CC Coburn said...

I've never been to Tassie, Malvina, but I've seen pics on fellow author Melanie Milburn's site of her idyllic Tasmanian location. I think I could live there too, except I'm a water baby and I'm not sure I'd ever venture into that Antarctic water!
It does look truly inspirational though.

CC Coburn said...

Rosalie, I LOVE Victoria, it's so pretty from the mountains to the craggy coastline. Lucky you living your dream!

What Christina? No more hunky painters to gaze upon as you glance out your window? I'm looking forward to visiting your part of England in the coming months and strangely I hope it ran=ins while I'm there! To be able to light a fire and look out at the rain, would be my kind of heaven (of course if the rain wnt on for too long, I might just suffer a dose of cabin fever and go "postal") (big grin)

Serena said...

Hi C.C.
While category romances are character-driven, I believe that the setting has to be authentic - well, at least authentic-sounding. You don't need a lot, but just a touch of the sights, smells and sounds of the little town café/diner (depending where you are), or the slight change in the way a local speaks can add a new dimension to a story. We don't need a complete rainbow collection of colours, but there is such a huge difference in the colours of a sunset in Roma, New York or the good ol' Aussie outback. Sometimes just by using the right name for the colour of the land, the reader can work uot where the story is set without even knowing it :)

LOVED Coloardo Christmas and soooooooooooooo looking forward to reading The Sheriff and the Baby!

CC Coburn said...

Hi Marcy! I'm glad you agree about needing to "live" the setting to write it. I hope you do get to move to California and become a romance writing beach bum someday soon. Of course with global warming Canada might be warm enough to beach bum around very soon!
Hiya Suzanne! Oh, the Whitsundays, haven't been there in a very long time, but it is beautiful looking out over those mountainous islands! I don't think I've ever read a book set there tho. Maybe you can be a first?

CC Coburn said...

"A lot of travel shoes"? Natasha, was tht a Fruedian slip? I see you swanning down the streets of NYC gazing into shoe shop windows and drooling over the Manalos etc!
My town of Soruce Lake is invented but it's based on a real town. Unfortunately, a journo who interviewed me about it, thought I was indicating Breckenridge was a hick town (because my fictional one is a bit quirkier than the real town!) Had to do some fast explaining on that one!

Hi Estella, You've made a very good point, sometimes the characters are all that matters. I'm not sure I'm clever enough to write characters that good tho!
The Pacific Northwest is GORGEOUS! (and wet) but lucky you living there, it's so very breathtakingly beautiful and wild.

CC Coburn said...

Hi Kandy, now let's be truthful, the reason you visit San Francisco every year is to get a shopping fix! :-) And you're welcome to stop by my quirky Colorado Rocky Mountain town anytime. I'm off there in less than 2 weeks - yippee!
Cathleen, I have no idea how to respond to a comment like that...

Sharon Archer said...

CC, this is a blog topic - and a great one! And such a fantastic excuse to do a little travel if you want to set a book somewhere else! Now I would love to go back to Broome... but maybe not on the motorbike this time... better put my thinking cap on for a medical romance to set in the Kimberleys!

You've had a ton of fun with your interviews! And put all the information to such great use!


CC Coburn said...

Hey Serena, you're post reminded me of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plums (check out my website, there's a pic of me with her!!!) While most authors wax lyrical aobut the beauty of their setting, Evanovich re-creates the seediness of Trenton NJ so well, I feel I'm dring down the street in the car right next to Stephanie and cringing at the grunginess of it all! She's brilliant at setting and characterization.
Hope you enjoy snuggling up with my Sheriff.

chey said...

Setting seems to be more important in some stories than others.
If I could live anywhere, it would be someplace that I could have a garden outside all year round.

Nicole S said...

If the setting takes place where cowboys are located that's my type of setting lol. I do like small town settings for books.

Don't put me in the drawing, got my copy of The Sheriff and the Baby in the mail this week. I can't wait to read it.

CC Coburn said...

Hi Nicole, I do hope you enjoy snuggling up with my sheriff!

Hi Chey, I love gardens too. Unfortuantely mine looks more like a jungle right now. :-(((

robynl said...

setting is important to me as the more true to life it is the better the story reads. One can learn a lot from a well described and well played out setting.

I'd love to live in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Ocean, beaches, sea shell picking, gorgeous sunsets.