Tag Archive for: #settings

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by Saralyn Richard


The five books I’ve written have three distinct
settings, all different, all places t
hat I know and love. The two books in the
Detective Parrott mystery series take place in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania.
I have family members who live there, and I’ve been privileged to visit many
times. A paradise for equestrians, artists, and nature-lovers, this is a landscape
filled with wide, beautiful, and peaceful vistas. Country mansions,
old-fashioned bank barns, horse stables, and wildlife abound, and many of the
people who live and work there are healthy, wealthy, resilient, and
independent. Brandywine is the last place you’d expect a crime to take place,
so when outsider, Detective Oliver Parrott, shows up to investigate deaths or
thefts or other crimes, he has an uphill battle.

the way, the books take readers to many of the unique attractions of Brandywine
Valley, including Longwood Gardens, The Brandywine River Museum of Fine Arts,
Kennett Square, incomparable horse trails, and outstanding restaurants. Many
readers have enjoyed these glimpses so much that they have traveled to the area
to experience it for themselves.

contrast, the stand-alone mystery, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL, is set in a far
different universe—the urban high school. Aside from the differences of
outdoor-indoor, wealthy-disadvantaged milieus, the worlds depicted in these
novels contain similar types of tension and drama. The urban high school is a
familiar and much beloved setting for me, since I spent many years as a
teacher, administrator, and school improvement consultant there. In this book,
readers are treated to an administrator’s view of the principal’s office, the
teacher’s lounge, the cafeteria, the football field, and the auditorium—a million
stories beyond the flagpole.

third beloved setting is a coastal island, where the closeness of the community
and the intensity of the summer temperature can be sometimes comforting and
sometimes oppressive. My children’s book, NAUGHTY NANA, and my newest adult
mystery novel, BAD BLOOD SISTERS, are situated there. Having been born and
raised on such an island, I’ve enjoyed sharing the various sights, sounds, and
smells of this setting, and placing my protagonists there.

has been written about the importance of setting in a work of fiction.
Sometimes the setting is mere wallpaper, and other times setting is as
important as a character in telling the story. When I read novels, I learn from
and enjoy the settings. It’s hard to imagine GONE WITH THE WIND apart from the
South during the Civil War, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE without the African Congo, or
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in any other location besides the fictional Maycomb,

            As I
write, I cannot separate the setting from the plot or characters, and I hope my
readers sense how integral the setting is to the story.

about you? When you read a wonderful book, how important is the setting?


Richard’s award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries and children’s book
pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor
houses and disadvantaged urban high schools.
 Saralyn’s most recent release is Bad Blood Sisters. A
member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America,
Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature at the Osher Lifelong Learning
Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Her favorite thing about being an
author is interacting with readers like you.
here, on her Amazon page here, or on Facebook here.



Real world or imaginary places?

One of my author loops started talking about setting the
other day. Did people use real places in their stories, or made up ones? The
answered varied from one extreme to another.
Some people were like me. They used real, made up places.
Confused? Let me give you an example.
In the Bull Rider series, the first book is set in fictional
Shawnee. A town with as many churches as bars. Nestled in between two
mountains, the town follows the river as it meanders through town. The rodeo
grounds are set outside town, next to a grassy hill where observers can bring
their own picnic dinner and blankets and watch the festivities in style. The
descriptions mirror a real little town known for it’s easy access to salmon
fishing and a rodeo weekend, Riggins, Idaho.

So the book is set with a mix of the real and the made up.
Later books in that series are set in my old stomping
grounds, the Boise, Idaho area. Real town with a little fiction magic, and a
book is born.
My novella, Temporary Roommates, is based on a neighborhood
in St. Louis close to Forest Park. Real place, made up apartment building.

Finally, South Cove, my setting for The Tourist Trap
Mysteries, is set on the central California coast. Readers may think they can
guess the town South Cove is representing, but that series was all based on one
old house. 

What about you? Do you like real settings? Or are you happy
with a fictional world?
Guidebook to Murder releases April 17th
In the gentle
coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her
store–Coffee, Books, and More–open and running. So why is she caught up in
the business of murder?
When Jill’s elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of
pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her
dilapidated old house. But Emily’s gumption goes for naught when she dies
unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill–along with all of her problems. .
.and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list
of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is
determined to uncover the culprit–especially if it gets her closer to South
Cove’s finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she’s on the
case–and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently. . .

Lynn Cahoon’s a multi-published author. An Idaho native, her
stories focus around the depth and experience of small town life and love.
Lynn’s published in Chicken Soup anthologies, explored controversial stories
for the confessional magazines, short stories in Women’s World, and
contemporary romantic fiction. Currently, she’s living in a small historic town
on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander.
She lives with her husband and four fur babies.

Some Thoughts on Setting

Whenever I go anywhere I always pay attention to everything that’s around. Who knows, someday I might write about a place like that.

My Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novels are set in a fictional small beach town between Santa Barbara and Ventura. There is such a place and it’s called Carpenteria. It is too large for the community I write about and I prefer not to use a real place so I don’t use a business that goes belly-up or have a problem with new city ordinances or changes in streets.

However, Rocky Bluff has similarities to Carpenteria when it comes to weather and what it’s like to live near the beach in that part of Southern California. Whenever I spend time in the area I like to soak up the flavor and spend time seeing what people are doing, what the houses look like, what kind of plants thrive. Recently when I attended a wedding in my grandson’s uncle’s huge and elegant backyard, which I soon learned I should have called it a private estate in Santa Barbara, I  realized that one day I could have my characters do something in a “private estate” which would give me a while new setting. It’s a whole new lifestyle than what I’m used to and been writing about though I’ve known the uncle since he was barely out of high school, and he graduated with my middle daughter.

But, I digress. The whole point is that though I’m writing about a fictional town I want it to seem real and represent the area that I am writing about.

My Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries are set in a place much like where I live except that I moved it up in the mountains another 1000 feet. The other wedding I went to was at a hidden away resort with a gorgeous lodge and many cabins tucked away among the pines, cedars and Sequoias along with with waterfalls and ponds. It occurred to me that it was much like my imaginary Bear Creek. So again, I took in all the smells, the beauty of the place.

My made-up town of Bear Creek has a strong resemblance to Springville where I live. I chose not to call it by it’s real name, not just because I moved it, but because the businesses don’t last long and then new ones come in. I wanted a more permanent look to my main street. We are very near an Indian reservation so I also have one in some of my mysteries. In fact, Deputy Crabtree herself was inspired by a young Native woman I met quite a few years ago. We chatted and she told me a bit about growing up on the reservation. Tempe looks like this woman. I saw her once again when she had art on display at the Springville Inn (yes, it plays a prominent role in many books) and my first Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery had just been published and I gave her a copy.

Many of that series have been published since then. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my model for Tempe again–like Tempe she has aged a bit, but still looks like who I see in my mind’s eye as I’m writing. She doesn’t live on the reservation anymore, but close by and has been lately engaged in decorating the school bus stops with native designs–she draws them and supervises children and adults in filling in the colors. H’mmm, maybe I can write something about that in one of my mysteries.

With either series, fictional or not, I want the settings to see real when someone is reading one of the books.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith