Friday, January 28, 2011

When That Spiritual Thread Makes All the Difference

Meeting author Cara Lynn James, and hearing how she writes her books, is perhaps a bit like threading a needle for that unforgettable tapestry you want everyone to remember forever.

Full-time Author Cara Lynn James lives in northwest Florida with her husband, son, daughter, four year old grandson and papillon named Sparky. She's been a Naval officer for eight years, a bookstore owner and home school mom.

SDC: Before we get going, Cara, I often ask this to other authors and would like to ask you the following question as well. What would you say your theme scripture is as a writer? One that explains your vision and makes it plain to the readers why you write.

Cara: I don’t have one particular scripture that guides my writing. But I do have a Christian theme which influences the spiritual thread in all my books. I think our Christian beliefs should be lived in all aspects of our every day lives and not confined to Sundays. It’s who we are. We can’t compartmentalize our faith and bring it out only when it’s convenient.

SDC: We sure can't. Tell us about your publisher and your experiences in working with them. Also fill us in on what you have coming out soon.

Cara: Thomas Nelson is my tremendously supportive publisher. They have fantastic editors and great publicity and marketing department. The best thing is whenever I contact them they reply really quickly. I’m so impressed with their professionalism and how much they care about their authors. They’re very patient with me!

Love on Assignment came out January 11th. The last book in the Ladies of Summerhill series, Love by the Book, will be released in July 2011. All three books (Love on a Dime, Love on Assignment and Love by the Book) are set in Newport, Rhode Island during the Gilded Age. Right now I’m working on a stand alone historical novel also set at the turn-of-the-century, but located in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York state.

SDC: I love stories written during Regency period, and around the time of the War Between the States. And the Gilded Age, I believe, is like reading the topping of the cake. Though this next question might seem similar to the first one I asked you, let's get a little more detailed. How do you thread faith, love, and hope along with the reality of life together in your stories?

Cara: My characters’ faith has to inform how they live their lives and deal with their problems, large and small. In Love on Assignment my heroine Charlotte isn’t a Christian at the beginning of the story, but in the middle she accepts Christ. This changes her entire philosophy of life, including how she treats others. She realizes she can’t lie for her own gain any more. Her spiritual problem is at the heart of the story. How she solves it and relates to the hero are the most important aspects of the book. Coming to faith shifts everything in Charlotte’s life and it’s not easy for her.

SDC: How long did you have to wait before getting published the first time?

Cara: I wrote about 6 ½ years before I received ‘the call.’ During one of those years I had two major surgeries, so I didn’t write very much. But I ‘practiced’ writing all my life, although I never took it seriously until my children were grown and I had more spare time. I’m glad I didn’t get published any sooner since I really wasn’t ready.

SDC: Right now as I write down my questions, I have a candle lit at the corner of my desk. Just the scent gets my creative juices flowing. But I have a difficult time sitting in this lonely office for too long a time before I have to get up to go say hello to my husband. Does a room, or special place or thing, play any part in your story writing, and if so, how?

Cara: I can’t write with music on or TV or people talking. I like solitude—except that I like the sound of birds chirping just outside my window. They’re noisy, but to me it’s a soothing sound. I write on my sun porch or in my bedroom. I have books and a desk in both places. Neither place gives me enough privacy, but I take my laptop and switch back and forth.

SDC: How does your family and the ministry with your church correspond with your time to write and do research for your writing?

Cara: I try to balance all my activities. My family, especially my husband is very cooperative and supportive. We help our daughter take care of our four year old grandson, so I have to devote a lot of my time to the little guy. But he’s learning when I have a deadline, I really do have to write. So I’ll make sure to spend some time with him first. I give him ‘quality time’ and my husband gives him both ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’ time.

SDC: Family support makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it? What question would you like one of our viewers to answer that would help me select the winner of your newest book coming out?
Cara: What do you think of love stories which don’t have happily ever after endings? Do you like to read them?

SDC: Good question, Cara. Thanks.
It’s been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Please include your URL and where people can find your books.

Cara: Please stop by and visit me at  and Seekerville.

Cara has put forth a great question for all of you folks coming by.
Please take a few minutes to respond to her challenge above.
I hope I draw you name in a few days. (Don't forget to include your email address.)

Cara: My books are available at local bookstores and through and

Congratulations to our winner, Casey Crow of Mobile Alabama. Be watching for your book. And thanks for being a part of A Pen for Your Thoughts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Do We Know That We Know?

Anyone who enjoys writing might or might not be in a dilemma about what they want to write next week or five years from now. And if you happen to be a reader, and not a writer at all, what makes you think that you know exactly what you'll enjoy reading until you have actually read it?

Author, Linda Strawn has offered to contribute her take on genre writing. Hopefully, it will help you in selecting your next juicy book, whether it's putting your own words down on a page that will draw the reader in, or casting your eyes on the story or book type that just happens to tickle your fancy.

Writing Tip
By Linda Strawn

When is a novel born? For most authors stories are often sparked by an event, something someone said, or even a dream, and is brought to life by their active imaginations. These tales can swirl around in our minds for days, weeks, months, or even years before we transfer them to paper. But before these muses are worthy of becoming the written word, we need to determine how they are to be presented.

Genre, a French word defined by Merriam-Webster as a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content, is how we package our stories. Unlike a gift that is ready for giving, our writing must be “packaged” before it’s complete. The best time to choose a genre is before we begin to write, but how do we know which one is best for us?

The Why Factor

To begin, we must ask ourselves why we write. Is it to instruct or entertain? At the same time, we need to establish whether our future novel is non-fiction or fiction. Non-fiction is based on facts. History, science, how-to, and self-help books fall under this category. Determining which non-fiction genre to write in is limited to your expertise. The non-fiction genre, for the most part, is pretty easy to figure out.

Fiction . . . well, that’s another story.

The Which of the Matter

The list of fiction genres is long and constantly changing. Determining which fiction genre to write in is not so clear-cut. Some new authors find that they won’t pin down their genre until they’ve nearly completed a novel, but by then it might be too late. If you plan to write a marketable book, it helps to know the definition of each genre and what genre is currently popular. Since the publishing market changes almost as often as the seasons, we need to educate ourselves on what’s selling and what publishers are looking for.

I’ve listed many of the more common genres and their definitions in my blog. If you’re interested in taking a look, here’s the link:

To Everything There is a PURPOSE

Once you have a clear understanding of genres, ask yourself these questions:

1) What is my mission?

2) Who is my target audience?

1) What books do I like to read? Authors tend to write the types of stories they enjoy reading.

2) What are my interests? Do you like police work, art, movies? Do you have an interest in certain cultures, traveling, or the outdoors? It’s far easier to write about the things you like than it is the things you have no interest in.

3) What are my skills? Are you a professional? Do you have experience in the fields of medicine, law, or education? Base your writing on what you know. Share your skills with others. You can be sure there are readers out there who’d love to learn about a field they know little to nothing about.

Sustaining that Momentum

You may find that several genres fit your writing style, but most experts advise that new authors settle on only one. Don’t be tempted to flip-flop. Consistency will help you establish a platform, and having a platform helps to get your name out there. It’s a means for readers to connect with you, and often will make publishers take notice. After you’ve sold a substantial amount of books and become well-known in the publishing industry, your credibility will allow you to branch out into other genres without losing momentum, or your readership. Still, even the most celebrated authors have one specific genre they write in. Consider Stephen King for a moment. We all know he’s the king (no pun intended) of thrillers, but can you imagine him writing mushy romance? He probably could if he wanted to, but it might make some of his die-hard fans cringe.

Find one genre you enjoy and stick to it.

Happy writing!

Copyright 2011 - Linda Strawn

We're anxious to hear from you.
Are you a writer: What genres do you prefer writing in and why?
Are you a reader: What genres tickle your fancy most and why?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This Woman's Experiences Make You Wish You Could've Hidden in Her Suitcase a Time or Two!

She's a traveling girl, and you don't want to miss reading a few amazing things about her.
Join me in welcoming Ann Gahlia O'Barr-Breedlove, author and former Foreign Service Officer for the United States Department of State from 1990 to 2004, to A Pen for Your Thoughts. Ann's Assignments included tours in U.S. embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Canada, and at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Her published articles include: “French Diary,” State Department Magazine (December, 1996); “Bringing In The Kingdom With 51 Percent,” Liberty Magazine (November, 2005); and “Jeddah and the 1991 Gulf War” on the American Diplomacy website (March, 2006).

Ann lives on an island in Washington State with her husband.

SDC: We do welcome you, Ann. I'm really looking forward to this interview and sharing you with the world. Please tell us about your book and why you wrote it.

AGO: SINGING IN BABYLON began, as most of my stories do, with a few scenes roiling in my imagination, in this case concerning an American woman struggling with life in Saudi Arabia, where she teaches English. She’s attracted to an American journalist she meets but is turned off by his arrogance. She’s independent and hates relying on a man, but in Saudi Arabia she can’t even drive. He saves her from boredom as well as more serious dangers. Eventually, in an emotional sense, she rescues him. He’s a Christian, as she is, but a secret from his past gnaws at him. As their lives intertwine, this hidden past threatens their relationship, and he must deal with it. Living in a country that forbids the open practice of Christianity, their faith grows “in exile” as Jewish faith did in ancient Babylon. Returning to their own country, they understand that Christians can be “in exile” even there.

SKC: Sounds very intriguing. What made you decide to write in this particular genre?

AGO: I didn’t consciously pick a genre. I just wrote the story as the characters experienced it. I enjoy most genres if the characters grab me, though all of my stories include a love element.

SKC: How did you do your research for this style of writing? And how easy or difficult is that for you?

AGO: Since I lived for several years in Saudi Arabia, much of the material for both Kate and Philip, the protagonists, came from my background. I worked for the U.S. State Department interviewing applicants for visas to visit the U.S. and knew about visa fraud and the risks desperate people will take to enter the U.S. This helped me with Philip’s investigation of illegal immigration. Like many authors, I used the Internet for most of the rest of my research.

At first, research can seem an interruption to my writing, but after I begin delving into topics, I’m caught up in it.

SKC: Along with book reading, I love to make use of the internet as well. How long have you been writing, Ann?

AGO: I began writing short stories and curriculum material for the Southern Baptist Convention soon after college. The precursor to B&H, Broadman, published a novel of mine, FIRST LIGHT. However, as my jobs became more demanding, especially after I joined the State Department and worked overseas, I wrote less, except for work-related reports. The experiences, however, provide background for my writing, issues like child custody cases between American and non-American parents, wives abused by foreign husbands, and Americans killed/injured in terrorist incidents.

After leaving the State Department, I began writing full time.

SKC: We'd like to hear more about your publisher. How did they find you? And what made you select them over a different one?

AGO: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Ramona Tucker and Jeff Nesbit at OakTara Publishers. Jeff wrote me an email asking to see one of my novels after I created an entry for it in The Writer’s Edge Service. I sent SINGING IN BABYLON to Jeff, which OakTara accepted, plus two others that we are currently working on for publication. The company is savvy about the new era of book publishing. Their books are published in both print and digital format.

SKC: I've done research on The Writer's Edge Service, and it sounds as if it worked well for you. That's wonderful. Tell us, Ann, what excites you most about your writing experience?

AGO: I love to grow the characters after I’ve written the basic story. That’s when I rewrite and edit umpteen times, which I enjoy the most about writing. My words seem dead until I’ve worked with the characters and the story. When the characters become friends I’d like to know forever, I realize I’m getting somewhere. That’s probably why I tend to include characters from past novels in later stories, sometimes in supporting roles.

SKC: Although I'm certain there are many others, you are the first that has shared why the rewriting and editing can be so enjoyable. What other books are your reading right now?

AGO: I just finished Lisa Samson’s Resurrection in May. I’m reading an old classic for a book club I’m in (one of two), Thorton Wilder’s The Eighth Day. I like Wendell Berry’s series about a Kentucky town in which different characters weave in and out, also Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I love the way you come to know her characters as the series progresses. I read nonfiction, too, both books and magazines, about world events, because my writing niche concerns Christians in global professions.

SKC: Yes, Jan Karon has a style all her own, doesn't she? What do you have in the works for later?

AGO: As I mentioned, I have two more books under contract with OakTara. QUIET DECEPTION is a mystery romance set on a Christian college campus following the disappearance of a professor. A colleague and one of his students, a young woman with her own problems, develop a love/hate relationship as they are drawn into the missing man’s life. SEARCHING FOR HOME is the story of an artistically talented woman from Tennessee who travels to the island of Cyprus and meets a man from a totally different background, a U.S. diplomat. They struggle to establish a relationship to escape past losses, despite their differences and a world that becomes increasingly dangerous.

SKC: We'll look forward to when they are released. I hear you have a book to offer the readers here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Tell us which one it is and also how the readers can find you on the web. 

AGO: It’s SINGING IN BABYLON. They can find me at  or on my blog .

SKC: Thank you so much for being with us. This has been a pleasure. Your experiences have been so enlightening to us. I'm sure your books will be as well. 

To the readers and viewers of this interview, as always, we have a little challenge for you. I will look forward to drawing one of your names at random to be a winner of Ann's delightful book, SINGING IN BABYLON. Here is the challenge. It's really not difficult.

Please tell us about a unique setting you would like to read about, 
but especially why it would be important to you.
Remember to include an email address. Thanks so much.

Congratulations to Marci Kitchen of Oregon. Your book is on its way! And thank you for participating in the interview with Ann.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Do You Ever Have Dreams that suddenly turn into ...

Destiny’s dream is coming true. But without a little divine intervention, it could become a nightmare…

Destiny’s Dream
by Delia Latham

Book One in the Solomon’s Gate Series
from White Rose Publishing

Is a little respect too much to ask at a parent’s funeral?
     Apparently it is for Destiny May. Her mother’s “going away party” is crashed by an unfamiliar and totally irreverent guest. Difficult to ignore, Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting for the occasion. When it turns out the annoying stranger is not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day’s dreary proceedings.
     From the beginning, their relationship has some kinks – starting with Destiny’s determination to found a Christian dating service in their conservative town of Castle Creek. A highly esteemed investment broker, Clay has little respect or patience for such a frivolous profession. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm’s way.
    Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses … and Cupid’s arrows are known to fly straight to the heart.

     The dim porch light revealed her smile. “I had a wonderful evening, Gallagher. Thank you.”
     Clay’s eyes were fixed on her lips. Could they possibly be as soft as they looked? With a monumental effort, he managed to tear his gaze upward, only to find her green eyes every bit as magnetic.
     He tugged gently on a loose tendril of hair. “I’m glad, ma jolie dame. Maybe we can do it again?”
     Lowering her gaze, she spoke so softly he almost missed it. “I’ll look forward to it, monsieur.”
     Just when Clay thought he couldn’t resist at least a brush of those inviting lips with his own, Destiny’s spontaneous humor—apparently never far from the surface—prevented him from losing control. Her lips parted in an enchanting smile and she shrugged one shoulder. “I’m afraid that’s all the French I know, and I only learned it tonight.”
     Clay chuckled. So now what? Should he just say good night and go? Should he kiss her? Man, I can’t believe how much I want to kiss her. Shake her hand?
     He settled for pulling her into a gentle hug, making it possible to drop a feather-light kiss onto her hair. I think I like you far too much, pretty lady. Grinning in the dusky darkness, he decided it was all right to say the words aloud. “Je crois que je vous aime bien trop, la jolie dame.” Stepping back, he took the key from her unresisting fingers and opened the door. With a final touch—the brush of a finger under her chin—he turned and walked away.
     He almost reached his car door before she called out, just as he’d hoped she would. “Clay?”
     He turned. “What was it you said?”
     He sent her a little grin he hoped was mysterious, raised a hand in farewell, then slid behind the wheel and drove away. A fellow had a right to keep a thing or two to himself.

About Delia:

     Delia Latham is a born-and-bred California gal, recently transplanted to Oklahoma where she lives with her husband Johnny. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend—but above all, she treasures her role as child of the King and heir to the throne of God. Delia enjoys big, loud, happy family gatherings. When she’s not writing, she loves to play piano and sing, read, enjoy nature’s beauty, and design marketing products for authors.
     Her inspirational novel, Goldeneyes, was released in March 2008; Yesterday’s Promise in March 2010; Mine! (a children’s picture book) will be available early in 2011.
     Find out more about this author at

Psalm 91:11
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

For the viewers. We want your thoughts.  Delia has set up a fun contest on her website called Daughters of Destiny. As you write in your reflective thoughts, we are encouraging readers to take part in that. Just click the link above after you drop us a line.

A couple of times during the storyline, Destiny experienced supernatural occurrences—not overtly dramatic things, but small miracles completely outside the realm of the "everyday." Would you like to experience such things, or does the idea frighten you, take you outside your comfort zone? several days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Whose Got Mystery Up Her Sleeve?

She's got mystery up her sleeve, I'm told. Come get a peek. Her name is Lorena McCourtney

She says:
I was raised in the eastern part of the state of Washington and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Agriculture (yes, agriculture). I started work with a meat company that put out a couple of magazines, but I quickly realized that writing about raising hogs and making sausage was not what I wanted to do for a lifetime.
When I started writing again, I wrote short stories for children and teenagers, went on to short stories for women, and then turned to book-length romances. My next change was to Christian romances, and from there to Christian mysteries. My “Mission Statement” for my writing is that I want to use whatever talent the Lord has given me to serve him.
I am married, have one son, two stepdaughters, one granddaughter and three step-grandchildren. We’ve lived in southern Oregon for many years. I enjoy reading and hiking, and beachcombing the Oregon coast is one of my favorite activities. It is also when I do some of my best thinking about the characters and plots in my stories.

SDC: Wow! I didn't know you lived in Southern Oregon like me! We might be neighbors and not even know it! How about telling us about your book. I haven’t read it yet.

LM: “Here Comes the Ride” is Book #2 in my Andi McConnell Mysteries series. After acquiring her limousine in Book #1, “Your Chariot Awaits,” Andi has now started a limousine service. She has a five-day, live-in gig transporting the wedding party and Hollywood guests to what is looking like “the wedding of the century.” There’s the groom with cell phone welded to his ear. The bride who suspects she’ll be murdered at the ceremony. The over-the-hill movie star stepmother with an ambitious agenda of her own, plus blackmail, betrayal, and enough hot hostility to melt that life-sized sculpture of the bride and groom. And murder.

Along with chasing down a killer, Andi is trying to figure out her relationship with God and testing the limits of her aging anatomy with a skateboard. Plus the complication of her relationship with Keegan “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, the guy who is living proof that some men really do age like fine wine.

This book is right now available only as a Kindle edition, but a hardcover, large-print edition will come out in May 2011.

SKC: And you are writing in this genre, why?

LM: I did some 24 mass-market romances, then turned to Christian fiction and did 7 more romances. But among those 7 was one that included murder and mystery, and I realized I really liked including those elements. So my books since then have been mysteries.

SDC: Everyone is so different. Let's see about you. After a long day of writing or doing revisions in a story what is the very first thing you do?

LM: If the weather is at all suitable, I take a long walk. It clears my head and wakes my body after being glued to a chair in front of my computer all day.

SDC: How long have you been writing, Lorena?

LM: I started way back in high school with an article about my dad that was published in what was then the Alaska Sportsman. I wrote a few agricultural articles in college. Then marriage and motherhood intervened, and it was several years before I got back to writing. But by then I knew fiction was what I wanted to write. My first book was published in 1979, and I’ve been writing ever since.

SDC: It's neat to see how old dreams come to fruition, isn't it. How do you encourage other authors you meet who are struggling with the craft?

LM: Mostly I point out that having talent is great, but it may take considerable persistence to put that talent to use. I’ve never used a critique group myself, but I hear such good things about many of them that I may encourage a newbie to get into one. I also mention some really helpful books and methods: Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. Jim Scott Bell’s and Jeff Gerke’s books on writing.

SDC: What advice do you have for other authors just coming into the field of writing?

LM: Persistence is my biggest advice. As well as reading, reading, and more reading. But reading with an eye as to how a book you like is constructed. Why do you like it? Take the book apart and see what makes it tick in areas of both plot and characters. And study some books you don’t like, to see why they don’t work for you.

SDC: What other books are your reading right now? And Why?

LM: I’ve just finished Gina Holmes “Crossing Oceans” and Mary DeMuth’s “Daisy Chain,” both of which were heart-wrenching. I read both of them simply because I heard they were good. I’m in the mood for something lighter now, so I think my next read will be Nancy Rue’s “Boyfriends, Burritos and an Ocean of Trouble.” I’m also just starting Elizabeth Goddard’s “The Camera Never Lies.”

SDC: What excites you most about your writing experience?

LM: I love hearing from readers. How my books have impacted their lives and brightened their day.

SDC: And your newest project?

LM: I’m working on the first book in a series of shorter mysteries. I’ve written older characters in my last two series, and I really enjoy older characters, but this one is about a younger woman.

SDC: Where can the readers find you and what book is it you wish to share as a donation? What do you hope readers will get from your story?

LM: Readers can find me at my website  Or on Facebook where I have a personal site under my name, and a second one under Lorena McCourtney Author. For a donation, I’m giving away an autographed copy of the first book in the Andi McConnell series, ”Your Chariot Awaits.”

What do I hope readers will get from my story? A good dose of entertainment and a few chuckles, and, as Andi struggles with her new relationship with God, perhaps some help if they are also struggling.

SDC: We thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us, Lorena. And to the viewers. Tell us about the last book you've read and why you would like to win Lorena's book this week. We hope to hear from you now.

Congratulations to Sylvia Smith of Kinross MI. You'll be hearing from Lorena soon! Please come back again.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Does it Really Matter WHERE?

Before we have our awesome talk with Delia about her brand new book in the coming week, we need to read this interesting insight of hers with regard to SETTINGS and descriptions of settings in a story. How the writer comes up with what it is she or he comes up with.

It's not as hard as you think. Or maybe it's not as easy as you think. Or maybe you already know, but your curiosity is driving you to read what she thinks too. (That's how it was for me. That's how it always is with me.)

The truth is, you can't just write a story about anywhere unless you know why. And it makes a difference if you want to get it published somewhere. There's always the chance one publisher isn't interested in anything written in Borneo, but she'd like to see the next book she publishes taking place in Duluth. How can you wind your Borneo story into the city of Duluth instead without changing every other page, what the character's wearing, and whether or not she should be going barefoot or not. See what I mean?

You've got to really think these things through and know why you're writing what you're writing.
And you want to make sure you're right about it when you do. Because, who knows? Someone just might be from that very place you're describing on your first few pages.

Let's see what Delia has to say in this month's Writing Tip.

Does it Really Matter WHERE?
By Delia Latham

It don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summer time…
And it don’t snow in Minneapolis when the winter comes…

Right. Try making a half-intelligent reader believe either of those lies. Even if they’ve never been to Indianapolis, never visited Minneapolis, Roger Miller’s old song let us all know without a single doubt that it most certainly does those things in those cities.

One of the many details an author has to consider when writing a work of fiction is where it will take place. It’s a little difficult to take a reader through an entire book without giving them some sense of location.

Location, Location, Location
That said…does it matter what that place is?
While some books don’t shine a spotlight on any particular location, details provide at least vague hints. As a reader, if I come across a really unusual landmark or some sort of quirky weather in a work of fiction, my curiosity is aroused. If the author hasn’t spelled out a specific location, I start flipping through the book looking for one.

Do we really want to force our readers to do that? I don’t! The best thing to do, then, is decide on a specific location for the reader to pinpoint on his mental atlas.

One of the pluses to having a specific location in mind is that it forces the writer to adhere to a degree of accuracy, and that’s always good.

  • Ex: A tornado is ripping through my heroine’s neighborhood. Warning sirens are screaming, and the whole family is headed for the storm cellar. It is to be hoped that I haven’t stated my setting as a fictional town in central California! If I have, most readers will close the book and find something else to read, because I obviously either live in some kind of alternate reality or I haven’t done my research.

  • Ex 2: A character has been viciously attacked by an alligator. If the attack is crucial to your storyline, use it. But for Heaven’s sake, do not then tell us he’s in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona! I’m not even sure there’s an alligator in that zoo…but I haven’t done that research.

  • Ex 3: You want to set your novel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the time of year needs to be mid-winter. That opens up a lot of possibilities for an exciting storyline—good for you! Now don’t spoil it by sending your character outside wearing capris and a light cardigan. You’ll have to hospitalize her for hypothermia—and hopefully you won’t send her to UCLA for that medical care…
Location, therefore, depends to some extent on your storyline. Or…if your location is set in stone, then your storyline needs to mold to that environment with accuracy and believability.

Other things need to be considered in setting, aside from the obvious weather conditions, or flora and fauna.


What about dialect? Stephen King is superb at pinpointing Maine as his typical setting simply by writing the dialect into his characters’ speech patterns. (Seriously, where else would a character spout “Ayuh” in every other sentence?) Southern states have a distinctive way of speaking, as well. And it shouldn’t be hard to identify a Cajun character’s location if you can master his language in your writing. (Have you read The Green Mile?) 

Religious affiliations. Yep, setting matters. While nothing’s impossible (at least, not with God…), you’re a whole lot less likely to find an Amish community in the Los Angeles area than in say, somewhere around Philadelphia, wouldn’t you agree? And if your main character was born and raised in Utah, please don’t try to convince your reader that they’ve never met a Mormon. What are the chances? Little pockets of specific religious denominations do exist in various locations.

General settings. States and/or countries completely aside, local setting matters. Surfers don’t tend to congregate in Oklahoma. Beach settings aren’t often arid and dry. Setting can even be reflected in the foods your hero and heroine most often eat. If they live on the coast, chances are they eat more seafood than a character who lives in Kansas or Wyoming. You’ll find more collard greens on the table of a Southern character than one who lives in Los Angeles.

So many details that can make or break a story, little things that make it believable or totally unrealistic. Place has its place in every storyline. Location, location, location.

The answer is “yes.” It really matters WHERE.

© 2010 Delia Latham

As a reader, how do you search for your books? Do you prefer stories written on shores of Ireland, along the English countryside, on the American soils, or where? And why?

As a writer, how do select your settings? And how do you do YOUR research for your storyline?

Drop us a line and tell us your thoughts.