Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest blogger Kim Watters: Setting is Important

Camy here, and I'm very pleased to be able to introduce Love Inspired author Kim Watters to you all here on Seekerville! I met Kim a couple months ago at the RT Convention in Los Angeles, and she's a totally fun person!

And now, here's Kim!

Setting is important

Whether you write about urban settings or small towns, the setting is important. LI readers like a sense of family and community, and a sense of place. Small towns or tiny communities seem to fit that perfectly.

My impression is that for most people, the idea that the place you came from is a fond memory. Even more the older you get because you remember the good. You remember it as unchanged, pure and still wholesome. Always a good setting that captures the imagination. I think it’s also part of the American dream that you can always go home again. I’ll have to keep you updated as I’m attending two reunions this summer; the high school I graduated from outside Chicago and the high school I would have graduated from outside Philadelphia had my family not moved in 7th grade.

That said, LI has published books that take place in mid-sized and big cities. Home is anywhere you live-and you can certainly have a community of family, friends and neighbors in a city. Take Chicago for instance, where I moved into the city after graduating from college. There are pockets of ethnic areas all over the city. Greek Town, China Town, Little Italy to name a few. A sense of community could easily develop there and create the type of atmosphere that LI is looking for. A sense of community in the big city. You could even do it in a condo building along the lake, or in another proposal I have ready to go, the story takes place in a hotel for a week with a group of people who have come together for a contest. They form a family and rely on each other to get through that week.

My first LI book, On Wings of Love, took place in Scottsdale Arizona. Definitely not small, but not too big either. Since the book is about organ donation, I used the tight-knit group of medical personnel to create the community feel.

In my second Home Sweet Home, out now, I used a small fictitious town in Northern Arizona. By combining the two real towns of Prescott and Flagstaff and a bunch of creativity, I created Dynamite Creek and brought in the best of both towns into the story.

Some authors use real towns, other fictitious ones. I’ve done both but I prefer to use made up ones.

Real towns provide real places, streets etc. but I find they can limit you to what is really there. I strive for accuracy and nothing pulls me out of a story quicker when I know the location and the place they are talking about isn’t there. In On Wings of Love, I did create a fictitious hospital and businesses set up in Scottsdale to protect the real businesses from any errors or liberties I took to write the story.

Creating fictitious towns allows you to make up whatever you want or need. Even though my towns were based on real ones, the shops lining the main street were made up. Need a bowling alley or a central park? Put it in. It’s your town, you can do what you want.

No matter where the story is set though, you’ll notice the sense of community. It plays an integral role in your characters, their struggles and ultimate resolution to their conflicts so they can have their own Happily-Ever-After. Thanks for stopping by.

Kim Watters
Stories From The Heart

Camy here: Thanks for joining us, Kim!

How about you? Is the setting for your current manuscript real or fictional, and why did you choose one or the other?

Update: I forgot to mention earlier that Kim will be giving away a copy from her backlist.


  1. I'm drinking tea since it's 9 pm here in California, but I'll also repeat the question since it got a little lost at the end of Kim's blog post:

    How about you? Is the setting for your current manuscript real or fictional, and why did you choose one or the other?

    My settings are real--San Jose, San Francisco, Sonoma. However, after reading Kim's post, now I'm tempted to create a little coastal town similar to Mendocino for one of my future books!


  2. I'll have some of that tea, thank you. And here's the coffee pot for the early morning crew.

    My current project is set in a real place, one I know well. But I've added a lot of fictitious elements.

    However, I have four manuscripts that are set in a fictional setting.

    I've had fun doing it both ways.


  3. I dont write but enjoy the different settings. I am wondering what do you class as small? I did a survey about where you live and it had rural then small town under 50,000 which really shocks me. here thats a city. my town is what I call small with 5,000. 10,000 here is a large town and 25,000 in my state is a city.

  4. My setting is real since it's a historical, although it's reaching WAY back to the first century, so other than well documented locations of major buildings (several of which are still around!)I get away with a lot of creative license.

    The contemporary lined up after the WIP will be set in my hometown of Houston. Not exactly a small town, but I like some of Kim's ideas about building a smaller community within the work.

    Thanks for the tea Camy!

  5. The setting for my manuscript is fictional. I set it in my home state, so I have something real on which to base the personality and general aura of the setting, but both the town and county are fictional. An author who was born in my hometown did this and was very successful, so I took my queue from him.

    Also, call me lazy, but I loathe research. In order to cut down on it I decided to use a fictional setting and make up whatever layout I want.

    I love to write about a town just large enough to have a wide variety of characters and ethnicity, but still small enough for everyone to know everyone else's business. :)

  6. Helen—I added a lot of fictional elements to my real setting, too!

    Ausjenny, I think that for Love Inspired, a small town is actually small—about 5000 or less.

    Nancy—that's the way to go! Real but so far in the past no one can say if it's true or not! LOL

    Natalie—I'm with you, I loathe the immense amount of research some authors need in order to make a setting authentic. I took some creative license with Sonoma, myself, because it's hard to find the information I needed for the story. I "created" a bunch of vineyards. :)


  7. Hey guys,
    I'm hoping Kim will stop in today, but she may still not have internet at her new house.

  8. Thanks Camy I always remember a penpal saying she live in a really small town. When I asked how small telling her we had around 5,000. She said 50,000. We are actually the second biggest town in the area with the biggest one being over 25,000. but I consider I live in a small town. I did have one pen pal live in a town of 500.

  9. I like both real and imagined settings. With real settings, though, even if it's an imagined town in a real region of the country or world, one needs to KNOW the place. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen a town I know used, and whoever wrote using the setting has obviously never been there. Natives of the place will know it, and visitors who come to visit because of the book will find themselves disappointed.

  10. I like using real settings, but I add fictitious elements, as well.

    The majority of my wips take place in Wyoming and Montana where I grew up. Thanks to family road trips I know these places really well so that cuts down on the research needed.


  11. I don't write but I love reading books with different and interesting settings.

  12. Kim and Camy I love your books!!

  13. I usually do read books with real settings though.

  14. Cool Nancy I love historical settings!

  15. Natalie I really enjoy reading books about smaller town life.

  16. Welcome to Seekerville, Kim, and you are SO right about setting!!

    When I read a book or even my own ms., if the setting isn't fleshed out with a nice feel, it doesn't pull me in and then the book becomes more surface to me and not as authentic.

    For my first two series about an Irish family, I chose Boston because 1.) I loved Boston Baked Beans candy and 2.) as a kid I loved anyplace Colonial since I was crazy about Disney's Swamp Fox TV show which took place during the Revolutionary period. Ironically, Boston ended up having one of the largest contingents of Irish immigrants in America, so I lucked out. But for me, the true setting was the family and the O'Connor household on Donovan Street, which I did my best to make homey and inviting.

    Thanks, Camy, for inviting Kim -- this was a fun post.


  17. I absolutely loved your Daughters of Boston series, Julie. The Donovan house WAS a very welcoming place. You captured the sense of home so well, it made me want to visit. :)

    Another thing, I was never confused about the layout of the house, apartment, newsroom, print office, etc., because you described them so well. Do you keep track of those things with a diagram or something while you're writing? I always find myself rewriting something because I forgot the layout of the building or room I've described.

  18. Kim, welcome to Seekerville and thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    I have always used a fictional setting that's based on a real place. It's just easier that way. Maybe it's different for us historical writers, because we can fictionalize a place but still make it sound authentically historical. For my 1880 Southern book, I mention lots of real places, like Nashville and Huntsville, Alabama, but I invented the small town where all the action takes place.

    For The Healer's Apprentice, I invented a fictional medieval walled town called Hagenheim, and I based it on the real town of Hildesheim, Germany, where I spent one summer. I changed the political structure somewhat. Instead of being ruled by a bishop, it's ruled by a duke, which is true to the time period.

    Setting is really important. Often new writers can be spotted by their lack of setting, or conversely, by too much description of setting dumped at one time. It's a bit tricky to get it just right.

  19. Lots of food for thought, Kim!

    You brought out a good point, that a community can have that "small town" feel even in a large city like Chicago.

    The setting for my manuscript is real, but the details are from my imagination. I have placed my characters in specific, actual places at times, and did my research (I want to make sure that building was actually there when I placed my character in it). Hopefully someone familiar with the area will be able to recognize things!

    It also helps that my Dad grew up in my setting - both the place and the time. He's only a phone call away when I need help with a detail :)

  20. My setting is a fictional lakeside community called Shelby Lake. It's very loosely based on northwestern PA and southwestern NY. I chose a fictitious town so I wouldn't be limited or make errors like Kim said.

    Love the covers of your books, Kim. I'm looking forward to seeing mine in a couple of months.

  21. Great post...and another fun day at Seekerville!! I would love to read any of your books, Kim....they all sound great!

  22. Hi, Kim! Welcome! Great post. I love to create my own small towns. And I, too, base them on my favorite parts of real town around me. :)

    I lOVE you new cover. It's one of my favorites of all the LI covers. Beautiful colors!!

  23. Welcome to Seekerville Kim. Love Your beautiful covers!

    In my LI romance I combine the two. I use spin offs of real towns that exist to create fictional towns.

    Bixby Oklahoma = Granby Oklahoma
    Jenks Oklahoma = Kirks Oklahoma

    It's so much fun to create your own world.

  24. Loves 2 Read Romance - LauraJune 16, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    I am not a writer but I do love reading about different places. I agree that if you are going to use a real place it is harder since people know about it. I love all the different settings that the LI, LIS, & LIH have to offer. All of the authors do a great job making the reader feel welcome no matter where the story is taking place. I am originally from Ohio so I got a kick when I was reading one of Patricia Davids Brides of Amish Country and she mentioned the Cleveland Indians baseball team. So even though the town is fictional that one little mention made it feel really real to me!! Thanks for sharing with us Kim and what lovely covers! The art department has been doing a fantastic job on all the covers for all the Steeple Hill lines!!

    Reminder the Steeple Hill chat is tonight on the eharlequin community page! Hope to see everyone there!!


  25. Thanks Camy. Welcome Kim! Great post as always in Seekerville.

    Recently an article discussed a YA author who created an entire world. She made maps and created banners, political structures, families, etc. and put them all in a notebook. So when 2 opposing armies met, she could turn to her trusty notebook, review, and start writing.

    Thought that was a great idea!

    Speaking of starting writing, Ruthy's going to be after me if I don't get with it! I thought she'd be busy with all those puppies.
    :) May the K9 Spy could be "Aunt May" - that would be a new incognito role!

    (Julie - now I'm hankering for Boston Baked Bean candy... Sheesh. Hadn't thought of those in a long time... Thanks for the tea and coffee too, Camy and Helen.)

  26. Kim, fellow LI author, welcome to Seekerville!

    Want a puppy???

    Oops, off-topic.

    Love the post and the question. I use a combination like so many of you. I pick geographic areas and incorporate a fictional town into the setting so that I'm not making fun of real people.

    Real people tend to frown on that. Can you believe it?????

    Grasse Bend, NY was set between Canton and Potsdam, along the Grasse River...

    And Jamison, NY is the fictional town based on Angelica, NY, but set along Rt. 19 between the very real and busy towns of Houghton, Fillmore and Wellsville.

    And I LOVE to give shout-outs to local businesses because it adds authenticity to the stories. And the shop keepers get a kick out of seeing their store/town/office in print.


    I love makin' folks happy.

    And NAUGHTY DAVE brought home some of the most decadent chocolate chip muffins this morning... Probably to be nice after the puppy birthing saga, so I'm sharing them with y'all...


    But so I don't wear the whole box on my butt.

    Kim, I'm refilling coffee and tea for your guests, honey! Thanks for hangin' with us!

  27. Hi Kim & Camy,

    My settings are fictional mostly because I'm from Canada and haven't traveled to many places in the States. So it's easier to make them up! Hope I manage to create a realistic feel to the places.

    I was just looking at the Harlequin site the other day and noticed the most gorgeous cover - almost ordered the book just because of it! It was Kim's. Love that porch and the inviting lemonade! If our postal strike ever gets settled, I'll go back and order it!!

    Have a wonderful day....

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  28. When Ruthy says, "Want a puppy?"
    She means, "What a puppy for $1000?"
    So her dog had what was it, Ruthy? 101 puppies this week? so if things go well Ruthy will be a millionaire by the weekend. So eat all the chocolate chips muffins you want, ladies and gentlemen, there are plenty more where those came from.

    And speaking of chocolate chip muffins, my wip is set near Pike's Peak Colorado and a mystery/suspense element is set around a deep, dark cavern, both beautiful and dangerous. A fictionalized Carlsbad Cavern.
    And a ranch.
    In the first to books of the series the only town is a fictionalized dying gold rush town called Rawhide. (how fun is that???)
    But the nearest real town is Colorado City, which is now called Colorado Springs. But they just brush against the town. Go to a doctor there, a general store and sleep in a hotel for one night.
    I like to fictionalize a town, then set it near a real town and make references to the real town without going there, because I think that's a strong cue to a reader to help place your book.
    Of course most of my books are set on a ranch on the frontier.
    So no town at all really.

  29. Kim, so good to "meet" you! Your setting are all in Arizona...I live in Peoria, AZ, so we might be neighbors!

    This is yet another valuable Seekerville post that will be printed and posted near my computer as I work on my first novel.

    I think when it gets published, I will have to mention Seekerville as one of the biggest contributors to my book.

    Blessings to you all for sharing your expertise with us newbies.

    Making a round of lattes...who wants one?


  30. Mary said:
    When Ruthy says, "Want a puppy?"
    She means, "What a puppy for $1000?"
    So her dog had what was it, Ruthy? 101 puppies this week? so if things go well Ruthy will be a millionaire by the weekend. So eat all the chocolate chips muffins you want, ladies and gentlemen, there are plenty more where those came from.

    And Missy snorted laughing and choked on her own spit.

    Mary, I really need a warning next time, please.


  31. My setting is fictional, although similar to the place where I currently live. I chose it because there were certain pieces that were needed for the story that wouldn't exsist in the town I am basing it on. I also wanted to make sure that I knew every detail about "my" town. I find that I learn new things about places all the time, and I would be afraid of leaving out details that would add to the story.

  32. Ausjenny, I think Cheryl's town is really small, like below 500!

    Shakespeare—That's very true. Writers do try their best with research but nothing beats a native's knowledge.

    Kirsten, hey good for you! That's also why I use places in California. :)

    Rose, thanks so much! I like books with different and interesting settings, too!

    Julie, the O'Connor household was definitely homey and inviting!

    Melanie, good point! I also tend to mention real places but rely on fictional elements for the main settings, whether it's a house or a town.

    Jan, I've had readers tell me they love seeing those real places mentioned in my books, so I think your readers will be the same way!

    Lisa, wise woman! I've had to do a lot of research or take creative license so I won't make mistakes.

    Jackie, I think you'll love Kim's books!

    Missy, isn't that a great cover? So pretty!

    Tina that's neat, I didn't realize they were based off of real towns!

    Laura, that's neat! I hope to see you tonight at the chat, too!

    KC that is a great idea! Yes, get cracking on your writing! :)

    Ruthy, I'll take a puppy. :) I agree, I love giving shout-outs to local businesses! I also name some fictional restaurants after friends.

    Susan Anne, that totally make sense!

    Mary that's a fun strategy!

    Jan, I bet it's fun to spot familiar places in Kim's books!


  33. Michelle I do that too, create things I need in my story!


  34. Kim and Camy,
    Early on, I thought I would use real settings in my stories. Then I started writing and realized how difficult that could be if I didn't live in the area.

    So most of my LIS stories take place in fictional small town settings. For stories set in ATL, I use real landmarks and fictional establishments, such as restaurants or businesses.

  35. Hi Kim! Congrats on your LI releases.

    My current setting is real, Queens, NY, which if you've spent time in NYC, could be like a small(er) town compared to Manhattan.

  36. Hi Camy and everyone. Sneaking some time from work to check in. Wow. Thanks for the tea and goodies and such an overwhelming response to my post. I msut say I'm honored to be here and thanks to Camy for inviting me.

    I apologize in advance if I miss someone.

    Thanks for stopping by Helen.

    Jenny, I consider a small town under 5000.

    Hi Nancy. Good luck with the community within the community.

    Hi Natalie. I'm with you on the town size and the people the live within. They are as fun to write as the hero/heroine.

    Hi Shakespeare. That's the main reason I use fictitious towns. I don't want to disappoint anyone.

    Hi Kirsten. Ah, Wyoming and Montana. Two states I haven't ever really visited. I particularly love reading places I haven't been to before.

    Off to lunch meeting. I'll be back later to answer more posts. Thanks.

  37. Thanks for sharing with us Kim!

    My current ms is set in a fictional town based on a real place. The first in the trilogy took place in real settings as my characters crossed the country in a covered wagon. I loved doing the research that was involved although there was a lot!

    I'd like to be considered for the weekly critique drawing.

  38. Welcome to Seekerville, Kim!! Great to have you here. Thanks for pointing out that neighborhoods or shared experiences or jobs can produce that same sense of community as a small town.

    I used a real town for the setting in my first two books, which took far more time to research and limited my options. Now I create my towns and whatever I need there, as long as its historically accurate for the time period.

    I've named fictitious towns New Harmony and Peaceful that either offer hope to the h/h or reveal how far their lives are from that ideal.


  39. Great post! In my story the setting is fictional. I love the power of "creating" a whole new world!

    Please enter me
    crazi.swans at gmail dot com

  40. I've written two books. One I drew a map and created it. The other one I flipped a place where we love to vacation and renamed it. Both are small towns. I found it interesting that you used the medical community for a small town feel. I'm a pharmacist, and the medical community in my area is tight knit. Calling doctor offices is one of the joys of my day.

  41. My settings are real places. The story I'm working on is set in Philadelphia. I chose it because after living here so long I'm familiar with the city and it's history. Timely question, Kim, since I was down in Olde City doing more research just this afternoon. So you're familiar with my city, Kim? What high school would that be that you would've attended here? So nice to see you here.

  42. Nice to see you here, Kim. My story setting for this historical WIP is Philadelphia. I chose it since I've lived here so long and familiar with its history. A timely question since only this afternoon I was in Olde City doing more research. So you're familiar with Philly, Kim? What HS would you have attended had you stayed here?

  43. I'm back. Great lunch. I love having lunch with my old critique group. But then I had to work again. Taking another break. Sure could use a refreser on the coffee though. Thanks.

    So where did I leave off?

    Hi Rose. Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by.

    Hi Julie. Thanks for the warm welcome. I've never tried Boston Baked Bean candy. Sounds...interesting:)

    Hi Natalie. I don't know how Julie keeps track, but I keep an excel speadsheet so I know where everyhing is.

    Hi Melanie. I'm enjoying benig here even if it's sporatic due to a day job. I agreewholheartedly with you;)

    Glad I could make you think today Jan. :)

    Hi Lisa. I love my covers, too. Especially Home Sweet Home. savor te moment when you hold yours in your hands.

    Thanks Jackie. You'll have to let me know what you think after you read them.

    Hi Missy. I'm so enjoying being here. Glad we share the same love of creating our own towns. And ye, I'm so pleased with the cover. They really captured the essense of the book. :)

    Hi Tina. Thanks on both accounts. I lvoe seeing the creative ways authors use fictitious towns based on real ones.

    Hi Laura. Thanks for stopping by. Sorry I'll miss the chat tonight. I have bible study with the ladies.

    Hi KC. I keep excell spreadsheets on just about anythign to do with my books. THat way, I refer back to them instead of slogging through the mansucript to find the reference I'm looking for. I have a whle different blog about that!

    Hi Ruth. Um--no puppy. Now if you have a cople of kittens....and thanks forthe chocolate chip muffins. Now it's on my butt!

    Thanks Susan. I do hope to the postal strike gets settled soon.

    Hey Mary. Thanks for the heads up. :) 101 puppies? Even a gaggle is a handful. We had nine at one time. Good luck!

    Hello neighbor Jan. I'll take one of those lattes please. Do you belong to VOS or The local ACFW chapter? They are both invaluable to both new and seasoned writers. Let me know if you're interested.

    Hi Michelle. I think a lot of us base our stories to places we're very familiar with, which helps lend crediblility. Then we sprinkle in some creativity and voila. Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Debbi. Ditto to what you said;)

    Thanks Patricia. No, I've only been to NYC when I was a kid. I'd so love to go explore thecity. If I ever get out there, you can be my tour guide.

    Hi Jamie. I hear you about the research. Funny how there is quite a bit involved even in creating your own towns as well.

    Hi Janet. Thanks. I love the names of your towns. I've used Prosperity and the town was anyting but. :)

    Hi Faye. I guess it is kind of powerful, isn't it. Nice thought.

    Hi Jackie. I aim to please. :)

    Wow this has been such a great group to hang out with. I enjoyed reading your questions and comments. Glad to know I was a hit. Only a bit more work to do and then I'm off to dinner. Have a wonderful evening all. I'd be happy to come back as a guest anytime. Thanks for having me.

  44. Hi Pat. :) I am somewhat familiar with Philly but I left there a long time ago. To put it in perspective-there was still the moretorium (sp?) that no building could be taller than Penn's cap. I know that is no longer true. I actually grew up in Bucks County outside of Doylestown, which is where I'll be staying while I'm there. I'm also looking forward to goign to visit the HQN offices and my editor while I'm there. :) Thanks for stopping by. Where are you????

  45. Debby—that's funny, I use some real restaurants and make up some landmarks. LOL

    Patricia, that's neat! I don't see many NYC settings.

    Jamie, want to do my research for me? ;)

    Janet, love those town names!

    Faye, I'm not very good at "world building" which I think is why I've mostly done real places for my books. :)

    Jackie, that's a great idea, to flip a place and rename it!

    Pat, Philadelphia is one city I'd like to visit someday!


  46. Great advice Kim!
    I used real locations in my first novel and whew that was a lot of research! I like the idea of made up ones :)

  47. Eva, I'm liking the idea, too! Esp as I start on this new book!

  48. Thanks, Kim! I've been using Excel to keep up with characters, but for some reason hadn't thought of using it to keep track of settings. I'll definitely try it out! Thanks so much!

  49. In my WIP my town is a fictious town in Northern Indiana. I guess I like the idea of creating my own in which my characters really created. :)

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  50. Good post! There are limitations to a small town, such as few places to go on dates, but most novelists work around those by creating fun times in meadows, river greenways, or small soda shops. A smaller group of people to work with is conducive to a novel so there are pro's and con's. Can't wait to read Kim's books!

  51. I just realized I had purchased 'Home Sweet Home' last week! How fun to know the author now. I'll also give it to my mom to read b/c it is large print. Thanks for that.

  52. I love reading stories where the setting is familiar or real, but I also love when an author can make a fictional town seem so special and "real" too. :)


  53. Hi Kim
    I am not a writer.I like to read the books you say about on this blog. I like you new cover. I enjoy reading all of your books.Please enter me in the giveaway for a book from your backlist.Thanks for the giveaway.Have a great weekend.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.

  54. And the comments keep coming. This is so awesome. Thanks again for having me.

    Eva, I find doing real locations hard and limiting which is why I make mine up but using real locations as a reference.

    Natalie, I also use spreadsheets for quick story, chapter synopsis references as well. Call me anal.

    Cindy. :)

    Kayleen, how funny you already purchased it. If you send me your snail mail, I'll send you a signed sticker for inside. Enjoy.

    Jordan. Thanks for stopping by.

    Emma, thanks I love the cover, too. Good luck with the contest.

    I hope I got everyone. My apologies if I missed you. Have a great weekend.