Decisions, Decisions

Julie, Liz, and I are continuing to celebrate our triple birthday launch. When writing a series one of the biggest decisions is where to set the book and how to get your protagonist to that setting. All three of us took a different approach and thought we’d share a little bit about the process we went through to arrive at that decision. Look for a giveaway at the bottom!

Liz: I wanted Stan Connor, my protagonist in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, to be a little different right from the start. She is a successful corporate woman who made smart investment decisions, so when she loses her fancy corporate job, she can truly take time to take stock of her life without feeling pressured to jump right back into another job. As part of that taking stock, she drives through a small town far away from the city life to which she’s accustomed, and she falls in love with a little Victorian house sitting on the town green. Impulsively, she buys it and falls into a whole new world that takes her down a path she’d never have imagined otherwise.

Julie: I am fortunate, because this is my third series, so I thought a lot about the world I wanted to create, how it would support the series, and how I wanted Lilly, my protagonist, to be part of it. I wanted Lilly to be a woman of the world, but a an active citizen of Goosebush. I also wanted her to have some power, because I believe that women over 60 have a lot of quiet power to make things work. The final thing I thought about, think about, is how Lilly interacts with the other characters, and with her town. At this point in her life she’s all about rediscovering joy, and fixing the things she hadn’t noticed.

Sherry: It’s so interesting to see the different takes we all had on getting our protagonist to their towns! Sarah Winston grew up in Pacific Grove, California but after her divorce she didn’t want to go running home with her head hung down. I had her move to an apartment in Ellington, Massachusetts which was right next to the Air Force base she had been living on. That way she still had the support of friends and she’d fallen in love with the area. However, to further complicate Sarah’s life I had her ex-husband be the chief of police in Ellington. The police force is pro him and anti Sarah. As she builds her business and makes new friends she realized that this is the place for her.

Readers: Where would you set a book? We are each giving away a book to someone who leaves a comment.

62 Thoughts

  1. Engaging topic, thank you. I like for the setting to be almost a character and you all do this wonderfully. My WIP’s setting is loosely based on where I live, a quirky Southern urban enclave holding tight to its old ways.

  2. Good morning ladies,
    I’m not a writer. Just a faithful reader. So you won’t have to worry about any competition. Lol! Mine would be at a lake site that as child, our family went to each year for vacation. I’m grown up and now own a home there. Lots of mysteries would be happening.

  3. I have ideas for two different books, both with different lifestyles. The first is for a single mom of a teenage daughter, who owns a bookstore in a small college town. She has a best friend who helps her in the store when she has time and a series of part-timers that also help in the store. All of these characters become involved in helping out with the mysteries that the main character becomes involved in. She also meets a potential boyfriend, even though she has reservations about love.
    The other series idea is an older woman that owns a small yarn and craft shop. There are classes as well as special nights that she and her assistants teach. There is the obnoxious customer, a wayward employee, an ex-husband and way too many murders in the small, coastal town.
    Now if I would just finish these and get brave enough to try and publish them!

  4. My husband came from a small “Cozy” town that would make a great setting for a book series. There were lots of activities to keep families busy, gossip galore and outsiders were treated like they were from Mars…Old families were quirky, but they took care of their own. Lots of old history, a few famous people and scenery would give lots of opportunity to a great series…

  5. I’ve always considered setting to be a character in a book, and it provides a sort of shorthand for the reader (for example, if you set your book in Florida, you can be pretty sure it won’t snow, but it may be hot). I also prefer to write about places I know, although sometimes I add a building or move a road. But I’ve set series in Tucson, Philadelphia, western Massachusetts, the Boston suburbs, most recently western Maryland, and of course Ireland. My main characters have ranged from glassblower to museum administrator to apple farmer to teacher to publican. I can’t possibly get bored!

    1. Sheila, your wide variety of settings and how knowledgeable you are about them is always fascinating to me. And I love the Ireland setting especially!

  6. I’ve read so many series set in the northeast corridor. I’d like to see something set a little further south, or possibly on the west coast. Or a series about someone who travels around to different places, like Mexico and the islands in the Caribbean. I would set a book near the water, either near Virginia Beach or Charleston or Savannah, or possibly the Tampa area. Or do the traveling one. I’d enjoy doing the research for any of those, let me tell you!

  7. My WIP is set in a small New England city, although I have changed a few elements to it and created an entirely new museum based on a property that is now luxury condos (although it spent a great deal of its life as an orphanage). My choice was largely due to my desire to research the history of my adopted place!

  8. I went to Virginia Beach once and that was so pretty. It might be a fun location.

  9. It is interesting to step back and realize just how much thought and work and planning go into to readers seems like a lucky drop of our favorite protagonists into the perfect setting. I enjoy reading series and seeing how the location plays a role in itself and then am impressed with how it’s not so happenstance after all. I wouldn’t know where to begin to pick an ideal setting but I seem to enjoy the most the places and settings that are familiar to me but push the edge a little. So I guess I would pick Chicago or the country or small towns surrounding to since that’s where I grew up.

  10. Currently writing short fiction. I am setting my stories in my home town of Oakland, California because I wish I still lived there, and at the end of the 19th century because I love history and historical novels. A novel is simmering away on the back burner, though.

  11. We have a number of places that we rotate our vacations thru every few years. So I’d probably use a place like Cape Cod or Colonial Williamsburg (yeah a strange choice).

      1. Interview the players (we met Mr. Washington in a private group). But they’d all talk to you and then you just “fake it” from there story wise.

  12. I live in a small town, in Texas..between Houston and San Antonio. However, though I do love my small town country type life, I grew up in a smaller coastal town, between Galveston and Houston. And no, not everyone knows your name in either small Then there’s Positano Italy, which is where my dad’s family is from and my maiden name..yes, we are a bunch of crazy Italians and I mean there is a ton of us, though we are all scattered everywhere! Some in the south, some up north! It would be a hard decision for me to have just one setting, though my heart lies always at the bay, I guess I’d have to either be all over the place or flip a coin for the setting of each book!

  13. I love variety of backstories, so your three different approaches make me very happy. As a reader, it’s nice not to see the same thing every time.

  14. I think I would set a book in a village somewhere in England where theater is a big part of the townspeople’s life. Because I would love to live in a place like that. Congratulations to all three of you on your new releases!

  15. I lived for several years I lived in Ketchikan Alaska and fell in love with the people and the scenery. The town is on an island so especially in bad weather it can seem very isolated. I think it would be a good setting for a mystery.

  16. My husband and I owned a small radio station for 14 years in a very small town in northwest Pennsylvania. I would alter the town a lot to make it cozier and more prosperous, but it would make a good setting. And being in radio, we heard a lot of things that we never put on the radio because of requests from the police or unproveability. As a radio reporter, the protagonist would be expected to ask a lot of questions and have access to a lot of people. And, yes, everyone did know our names! We lived 8 blocks from the radio station and everyone knew where we lived. Little privacy. Great experience, sure glad we no longer live there. And the winter WX was horrible, but could add to a lot of mystery settings.

    I’m not a writer, so feel free to steal any of the ideas!

  17. I grew up in Montana & my dad worked in the woods. There was a “camp” headquarters that we would visit from time to time (my dad checked in there most every day). I always thought that a mystery series centered there would be great.

  18. Since I live in the Ozark Mountains and in the town proclaimed as the Folk Music Capital of the World, I would say maybe in the Ozarks with a musical theme. 🙂 Definitely small town, friendly people and maybe a secret or two back in them thar hills.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  19. I would set my cozy in New Jersey, since I’ve lived here all my life, and would dispel all the negativity about my state. Thank you for this chance!

  20. It would be fun to set a mystery series in Las Vegas, NV because there are so many weird conventions that come here like the concrete show (body encased in concrete) when show opens? Or how about the rival porno stars at their convention?
    By the way, I’m reading the Gun Also Rises and enjoying!

    1. I’m so glad you are enjoying The Gun Also Rises! I love the Vegas idea — it could be an event planner who has to keep going to all of these strange conventions! How fun!

    2. Yeah, Vegas would have a lot of possibilities! Look how many years CSI was on and I loved the variety of characters the Las Vegas setting had! Renee

  21. Hmmm.. good question. My first thought was that I wouldn’t set a book in my hometown in Oklahoma, because, as when you live somewhere, you don’t always appreciate what you do have available. But on second thought, we may not have lots of name brand stores to shop at, but we do have quite a few boutique stores, several small museums (mostly dealing with Cherokee Nation), a changing music show, several festivals during the year, a university, a river known for its float trips, a beautiful lake and we are the end of the Trail Of Tears and capital of the Cherokee Nation. So giving it a second thought, there are a lot of possibilities of where a cozy murder could occur and with all of the visitors coming into our town,
    there wouldn’t be any shortage of suspects for a good cozy mystery! Renee

  22. In and around a coffee shop on the coast in Kailua Kona, HI, You would have quite a miix of characters and interest information on coffee growing and processing. It is really a small town even knowing what coffee comes from there.
    Imagine what fun you would have researching.

  23. Maybe a small town in the East. I enjoy reading stories that take place in small towns!

  24. Although not veey novel, I would set it in the small college town I lived in when I was little. There were bike paths for the kids to ride everywhere, a greenhouse out by the golf course and a neighbor who ran his vet clinic out of his tuck under garage! Lots of possibilities for murder…!

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