by Judy Penz Sheluk
Hi–Barb here, pitch hitting for Edith after her recent hand surgery. We wish her all the best.
My, er, Edith’s guest today is author Judy Penz Sheluk, who has an interesting take on some time-honored writing advice.
Take it away, Judy!
Writers are often given the advice to “write what you know,” which is all well and good, except that I write mysteries. And despite an over-active imagination, I’ve yet to murder someone, investigate a cold case, or solve a crime. So in my case, “write what you know” isn’t particularly good advice. But “write where you know,” that’s something altogether different.
When I first starting writing my Glass Dolphin cozy mystery series, many folks told me not to set my book in Canada. “Americans won’t read it,” they warned, expressions grim. “Louise Penny is the exception, not the rule.”
But I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and I’ve lived within two hours of that city, mostly in small towns, for all of my adult life. Add to the mix that I’ve never been much of a traveler (I don’t count a week in the Bahamas or the occasional writers’ conference as being a “traveler”) and I couldn’t imagine setting my book in some fictional U.S. town. After all, just like the people in them, every small town I’ve lived in has had its own distinct personality.
And so, being the optimistic dreamer that I’ve always been, I set the Glass Dolphin mysteries in Lount’s Landing, a fictionalized version of Holland Landing, where I’d lived for twenty years. Instead of the Holland River, the Landing (yes, Holland Landing folks refer to it as “the Landing”), I’ve got the Dutch River. Instead of neighboring Newmarket, I’ve got Marketville (though I did borrow its Main Street of indie shops and restaurants for Lount’s Landing).
Why Lount’s Landing, you might ask, and the answer is simple. When I first moved to the town in 1990, one of my first stops was the Holland Landing Public Library. Outside, there was a historical plaque commemorating Samuel Lount, who’d been hanged for treason in 1838. Fascinated, I researched Lount’s story. His history, and his hanging, is an integral part of The Hanged Man’s Noose, book 1 in the series.
In book 2, A Hole in One, Glass Dolphin antiques shop owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland decide to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament in hopes of promoting the store. Unfortunately, finding a dead body in the woods has a way of mucking things up, but the golf course, and the third hole where the body is discovered, is based on Silver Lakes Golf Course in…you guessed it…Holland Landing (did I mention I have an overactive imagination?).
Where There’s A Will, book 3, wraps up the series with Emily getting married and house hunting, and Arabella and her ex-husband, Levon, hired to appraise the contents of an estate. Now, I’ve never been in real estate, but I’ve bought and sold enough houses to know the lingo and it was great fun to include some of that in the book:
Location, location, location! This rustic four-bedroom, two-bathroom Victorian charmer on desirable Walnut Street includes a generous garden for your green thumb and a high-ceilinged lower level with loads of potential. Put your own stamp on this one. Motivated vendor.
Emily had seen enough houses to know that “rustic charmer” translated to “needed serious renovations,” whereas the “generous garden for your green thumb” meant an overgrown, weed-infested plot of land, and the “lower level with loads of potential” was realtor speak for an unfinished basement.
And so that’s my take on “write where you know.” I’m going to miss writing about Lount’s Landing, though I expect Arabella, Levon, and Emily will continue to make guest appearances in my Marketville Mystery series. As for whether the decision to set the series in Canada was a mistake, I’ll let you be the judge. Here are the latest sales stats from Amazon for US and Canada:
Readers: Do you enjoy books set in locations outside of the US?
About the book: Emily Garland is getting married and looking for the perfect forever home. When the old, and some say haunted, Hadley house comes up for sale, she’s convinced it’s “the one.” The house is also perfect for reality TV star Miles Pemberton and his new series, House Haunters. Emily will fight for her dream home, but Pemberton’s pockets are deeper than Emily’s, and he’ll stretch the rules to get what he wants.
While Pemberton racks up enemies all around Lount’s Landing, Arabella Carpenter, Emily’s partner at the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, has been hired to appraise the contents of the estate, along with her ex-husband, Levon. Could the feuding beneficiaries decide there’s a conflict of interest? Could Pemberton?
Things get even more complicated when Arabella and Levon discover another will hidden inside the house, and with it, a decades-old secret. Can the property stay on the market? And if so, who will make the winning offer: Emily or Miles Pemberton?
Find the Glass Dolphin Mysteries on Amazon : https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KFLQ6KH
About the author: A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans and Heartbreaks & Half-truths, which she also edited.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.