SETTINGS! Yes! These handy little books took me to islands in Greece with sparkling white houses and brightly-painted blue doors dazzling in the sun--took me to lakes in Italy, chateaux in France bursting with vineyards, castles in England, haciendas in Spain. All of these were very exotic to a teenager who'd grown up in country Queensland. My state was only 100+ years old--we'd never build chateaux, our vineyards were well in the future, our 'haciendas' were plain old cattle properties with falling-down homesteads where women cried over lack of water to grow flowers.
So...I couldn't wait to finish my education and hit the road to places unknown...and that's a journey that never ends for me. But coupled with my love of soaking up new cultures, new lands, I find so much inspiration in exotic places that it turns up in my stories, it often is my story. I've just sent off a micro fiction hoping it will be one of 14 chosen to be printed on a cushion at the Queensland Writers Festival. It was influenced by Paris. My LETTERS story still under construction for the current RomanticFridayWriters challenge is set during the war on the Western Front near Ypres, Belgium. (Yep, been to the Flanders Fields, what a privilege!)
No! No! No! I can see you shaking your head--you don't have to travel to find exotic settings--your homegrown setting is exotic to everyone but you, and no one can write about your local area like you can, and I love reading your stories set in the places you inhabit. Look at Kittie Howard and her Louisiana stories. Roland Yeomans and his New Orleans' stories, Joy Campbell and her Jamican stories, just for starters! Love them! Now Harlequin Escape is actually asking for stories set in Outback Queensland! So my state has finally become exotic enough for readers! Nothing like dust, horses, snakes, with a few handsome, rugged stockmen and station owners thrown in, is there? (Think Hugh Jackman in Australia, the movie --okay, had to get him in somewhere. Much better than a foppish French Duke IMO).
Now, what's that picture of Paris bits and pieces doing here?
Italy comes a close second to Paris--why do I devour each of Donna Leon's Commisario Brunetti books? Because Venice is the main character. Once you've been to Venice and have lost yourself in the backstreets, the canals and the bridges, reading about these in a great story is the next best thing. I've just picked up her latest, Jewels of Paradise. Looks like Brunetti doesn't feature for once. Okay, how come I can read so much? Well, I don't sleep much, sleep is over rated.
But be prepared to cop flak if you add objects to your settings that aren't actually there. Tourists to Corona, Italy, (the setting for Under the Tuscan Sun), complain vehemently when they can't find the fountain which featured in the touching La Dolce Vita scene in the movie. I've been to Corona, and nup, it's not there! But the villa, Bramasole, is.
So...where is this going? In future posts, I'm going to hopefully snaffle some authors and get them to tell us all how travel has enriched their stories or how they've played their local setting for all it's worth. Hope you'll pop by to hear what they have to say.
Meanwhile, you can also make money by selling your travel stories to magazines. Sometimes they pay money, sometimes they pay with a subscription to the mag, sometimes they gift you with travel-related gadgets or luggage. All good.
What do you think?
- Do you often/sometimes choose books just because of the setting?
- Do you write books as a result of your travels? Or do you think of a preferred setting then travel for research?
- Do you prefer settings that no amount of travel provides -- sci-fi land, fantasyland, steampunk??