Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting Our Settings Right

Pennsylvania Landscape--Andrew Wyeth

I have always been fascinated that American Martha Grimes writes a very successful British police procedural series.

The series is set around different British pubs, and includes deft descriptions of various British locales.

How does Martha Grimes do it? I think it would be extremely hard to accurately portray an area of the world where you’re only a visitor and not a resident.

The location for my Myrtle Clover series is Bradley, North Carolina. No one will write me to say that Bradley absolutely doesn’t have a tree-lined Main Street because the power company had the trees cut down. They won’t remind me that there are no one-story houses bordering the lake there. No one will catch me misrepresenting the menu in the favorite diner there.

Because Bradley, NC is completely made up.

I’m going out on a limb with my new series, though. It’s set in Memphis, Tennessee (and I’m a North Carolina resident.) I’m going to spend some time in Memphis in July to make sure all my setting descriptions are accurate. But I’m a little nervous. There’s nothing like messing up the facts to bring a reader out of a book that they were previously enjoying. Although I don’t spend a ton of time writing setting, it’s an important component to my books…and I want to get it right.

Does anyone else write books set in areas where you don’t reside? How do you do your research—online, in person, or a combination of the two?

Technorati Tags: