One of the things I appreciate about International Christian Fiction Writers blog is the variety of settings and time periods, on earth and in speculative realms, from writers worldwide.
Paula Vince has introduced me to present day Australia, Christine Lindsay to India at the close of the British Raj, and Heather Day Gilbert to Viking settlements. Plus I've had plenty of exposure to parts of the US and to the UK. There are so many more books to explore, as time and money allow.
As a reader, I think these are exotic settings. Truth told, I don't enjoy reading novels set in places I know well. My internal fact-checker kicks in, and I lose my connection to the story because I'm asking questions, like, "would she really drive that route?" or "why would they choose that shopping area when this one's closer?" Even if the writer created a fictional location, if I know the turf, I'm trying to figure out where it is.
Because I wrote my first novel, Heaven's Prey, hoping for a US publisher, it does have American scenes as well as Canadian. I did research, and I also focused more on the people than the surroundings. The only geography integral to the story was local to me, and I knew it well. The second novel, Secrets and Lies, is set in Toronto, a city I've visited but don't know well. The only scene set in a specific, real location didn't come fully to life until I spent an afternoon there with my camera.
Book three, Without Proof, released last month, and it's set in my home province of Nova Scotia, Canada. I found it easier to immerse myself in the story world because I'd experienced it. Now, the challenge was to not turn the novel into a tourist brochure. I've read books like that, and they're not fun.
I'm planning to set my next series locally as well, and this has been part of finding what works best for me as a writer. Perhaps it's one aspect of my voice. Familiarity makes me discount the appeal of Atlantic Canada to readers, but most of the world isn't from here. This is your chance to visit.
My stories are still people and plot first, but settings do influence those things. For a fine example of how setting can be integral to the story, see Sara Goff's post from September.
What about you? Do you prefer to "write what you know" geographically, or to discover new settings, real or imagined? When you read, what do you look for (or avoid) in a setting? Or does it matter?
You can find Janet online at janetsketchley.ca, and fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.
Without Proof page (includes purchase links): bit.ly/WithoutProof
Sample Chapter: janetsketchley.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2015/10/WithoutProofExcerpt.pdf
Amazon Author Central: www.amazon.com/author/janetsketchley