by Michelle Ule
People always want to know where writers get their inspiration and other writers are curious as to how authors integrate experiences into their stories.
One of the best examples of a setting inspiring a story is found in my short novel Bridging Two Hearts. Set in Coronado, California, it was prompted by a visit to friends who lived on the island. The husband was the executive officer of the USS Ronald Reagan. The wife worked at the world famous Hotel del Coronado. They lived on San Diego bay and delighted in telling stories of what life was like when Navy SEALs exercised just off their back yard!
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She fell in love with a Navy SEAL who didn’t think he was afraid of anything.
Let the excitement begin!
I did a lot of research through the Internet, but halfway through the writing, my husband and I packed up our military ID cards and traveled to the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado for a long weekend of relaxing (of course I needed a research massage) and sleuthing. We needed details—where would my couple find ice cream? Did special forces operators really roam the community?
Those details all made it into the story, which then presented me with a number of marketing opportunities once the book released. I spoke to the owner of McP’s, a Navy SEAL hangout, to request permission to use his pub in my story.
“No problem,” he said once he examined my ID card.
My heroine and hero bought passion fruit gelato at the Bottega Italiana and sauntered past Pandera Bread. I sent copies of my book to each spot mentioned in the novel, along with a small sign about the book, just in case we could cross market each other. Readers who read Bridging Two Hearts told me they know exactly where they are on the island because of the clear descriptions.
My daughter was delighted to find another source for delicious passion fruit gelato.
Including real places can be a great way to link your story with potential endorsers and easy to do while you’re writing. In this publishing era, anything that can make your story more marketable is important.
Of course, references should be positive and you should clear the name use with the owners!
If they’ve got a Facebook business page, you can send information about your story. Every little mention helps, but don’t abuse it.
Pinterest, of course, is another place where additional information can be shown and adds to the stories you’re telling. I’ve set up Pinterest boards for all my stories: Bridging Two Hearts, The Dogtrot Christmas, An Inconvenient Gamble, The Gold Rush Christmas, The Yuletide Bride, and even boards related to the World War I project I’m currently working on.
Contemporary stories lend themselves to this type of marketing but what about historical stories—which is what I really write?
Seeking any sort of unique angle helps. For example, my
first novella, “The Dogtrot Christmas” (part of the New York Times bestselling A
Log Cabin Christmas Collection) has an unusual title.
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I’m glad you asked. Take a look at the short video I made to explain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6LNPHFNPq0&feature=g-hist
This is obviously silly, but you now know what a dogtrot cabin is, don’t you?
Because several of the scenes in “The Dogtrot Christmas” were taken directly from my family history (including actual relatives), I could also pass along information about the book to forums with distant relatives. If an historical society functions in the community in which you set your story, contact them. I set two stories in the same county and when I contacted the local library, was told they’d be delighted to purchase copies of my books.
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In my recently released The Yuletide Bride (a rhyme and a pun on my name, wonderful!), my heroine needed to learn how to play the bagpipes. While I’ve been a woodwind player my whole life, I’d never tried to get a squawk, er, sound, out of such an instrument.
What better way to be able to describe the effort than by trying it myself?
A friend used an IPhone to film while I . . . made noise.
Setting a story in a real place can be helpful even for historic tales. “The Gold Rush Christmas,” part of the bestselling A Pioneer Christmas Collection, took place in Skagway, Alaska—which has a thriving tourism trade revolving around the gold rush history. The National Parks service runs two halves of a museum about the Alaskan Gold Rush—a small outpost in Skagway as well as a splendid museum in Seattle. When I stopped in to thank the rangers for their excellent webpage (in Seattle), they wanted
to hear all about the book.
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Letting the locals know, dropping off a copy of the book, thanking museums in print, all can go a long way towards establishing good will for your book—and for you. It’s as easy as saying thanks, acknowledging their help (perhaps in blog posts) and by writing stories that demonstrate to readers how interesting history can really be.
When has a book’s setting captured your imagination and inspired you to visit?
Do you enjoy visiting Pinterest boards that provide additional information about the books you love?
Would a silly video interest you in a story or send you running away screaming?
I'll be giving away copies of Bridging Two Hearts, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection as and an eBook-only copy of The Yuletide Bride.
Navy wife Michelle Ule is a graduate of UCLA and the best- selling author of five historical novellas and a novel. She lives in northern California with her family where she works at a literary agency, teaches Bible study, plays in a woodwind ensemble, and writes.
Fascinated by the “why?” and always looking to encourage and provide hope, Michelle is currently working on a World War I book involving Oswald Chambers. You can follow the exciting research by subscribing to her quarterly newsletter here: http://bit.ly/1yMSAAj
Michelle is a long-time lay counselor in both crisis pregnancies and budget counseling. She loves to travel and is an accomplished genealogist. You can learn more about her at