Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Setting: More than a Dot on the Map!

Myra Johnson
Whether the locale is real or imaginary, every story takes place somewhere, and every “somewhere” has a personality all its own. A believable setting comprises more than just the geography, topography, flora, and fauna. It’s also about the history, culture, and prevailing mindset of an area.

While I’ve understood this concept for quite a while, it struck me again last month while my husband and I traveled to Montana for a grandson’s graduation party. Neither of us had been to Montana before, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. Mountains, rivers, ospreys, bison, elk, bears . . . yep, saw all of those and more!

But most intriguing were the people themselves. Our daughter and her husband work with an organization dedicated to bringing meaningful worship to individuals and families whose lives revolve around Montana’s great outdoors. You won’t find those people in traditional churches on Sunday morning. Their weekends are more likely spent hunting, horseback riding, boating, fishing, or hiking. 

Elk on the mountainside

Some interesting facts about Montana (taken from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/30000.html)
  • Estimated population of the entire state is just over 1 million. Compare that to New York City with nearly 8.5 million, or Dallas, TX, with 1.3 million.
  • Number of persons per square mile in 2010 was 6.8.
  • The median household income reported for 2009-2013 was $46,230.
  • The percentage of people over 25 years of age with a bachelor’s degree or higher is only about 28%.
  • Almost 90% of the population is white.

National Bison Range

Bearing all this in mind, maybe you can understand why Montana churches need to employ some out-of-the-box thinking to create a worship experience that is both culturally relevant and centered in the Word of God. 

Montana river surfers

As writers, we need to think outside the geographical box when we create our story settings. We need to capture not only the locale but the overall feel of a place so that our setting is more than just a dot on a map!

Here are some questions to ask as you ground your story in a well-developed setting:

  • Who are the inhabitants, both current and in the past? Where did they come from? Why did they settle there, and how long ago?
  • How is the economy? Is it business oriented? Manufacturing? Agricultural? Academic? Tourism?
  • Are there richer and poorer sections within the town? How does each social class interact with the others?
  • How are urban dwellers’ lives different from those in the suburbs and surrounding rural areas?
  • What do people do for fun here? How do they typically spend their spare time?
  • How does climate affect seasonal activities and industry?

My Till We Meet Again historical romance series is set at the end of World War I in in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The city got its name and reputation from the thermal springs in the area and the supposed health benefits from both bathing in the water and drinking it Hydrotherapy played a significant role in the treatment provided by the Army and Navy Hospital, where some of my characters work and many of the scenes take place. Travelers coming to “take the waters” helped Hot Springs grow into a popular tourist destination, so one of my characters is a hotel manager. The stories also contrast Hot Springs’s social elite with the working class (naturally, with romance traversing those barriers).

Entrance to Hot Springs Army & Navy Hospital
Ruth Logan Herne has used upstate New York for some of her story settings. She describes it this way: 
Four distinct seasons, heavy winters, gorgeous orchards and wineries, lots of water, lush and green or frozen and white. The cities have a distinct poverty level in the Northeast, and the suburbs are more secure, but the decline in manufacturing means lots of folks have moved south. 

But the small towns are charming, filled with characters, with twinkle lights in winter and flowers in summer. Farmstands and agri-tainment have taken hold all over.

Nebraskan Mary Connealy shares a few insights about her home state: 
First, last, always in Nebraska . . . the cornhuskers. “What do you think of the new coach?” ONE HOUR CONVERSATION.

In small towns the best thing and the worst thing are the same thing. Everybody knows your business. In hard times the food comes, the visits, the help from all directions. In humiliating times, everyone knows all the details including plenty they're making up.

Out of about three big cities, Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, it's all farm centric. No one gripes much if a huge tractor is in the road. They all know farmers have to move. A real work ethic here—3% unemployment.

A lot of NICE people. A lot of people who know your story back to great-grandparents. A zillion people who are your fifth cousin. And everyone has fun winding around the broken road figuring out HOW they’re related. A few mean gossips but mostly people are just swapping news. And we all know who has the venom and take it into consideration—which doesn't mean it's not entertaining to listen.

It's hard to get divorced in a small town unless you move away, because you keep running into your EX at ball games and school events and church dinners and 4th of July parades. I know plenty of people who have tried to get a divorce and finally patched things up. 

Seeker Missy Tippens writes about fictional small towns in Georgia:
The town I live in isn't nearly as small as the ones I write about. But even in a town this size, I can pull from what I've experienced (especially as someone who moved here as an "outsider”). Most people grew up here and remain here with family nearby. They watch out for each other. And yes, they get in each other's business sometimes. Their church is often very important in their lives and makes up a good bit of their social activity. They watch out for each other's kids. They pull together during tragedies. They love, they fight, they forgive. It's a wonderful place to live and raise kids. And it's a setting I think I'll always enjoy writing because I love writing romantic stories of home and family.

Let’s talk! Share a favorite story setting you’ve used (or read about) and anything special or unique about it. How did this setting influence the development of plot and characters? Or tell us something interesting about your hometown (that’s safe to reveal in a G-rated venue)!

Today I’m giving away a copy of my novel When the Clouds Roll By. If you’d like your name thrown in the dog dish (sorry, no cats around here these days) for a chance to win, just say so in your comment. 

About the book:
Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiancé, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry.

After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie. While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Who will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be?

As the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.


Vince said...

Hi Myra:

This is an easy choice for me. My favorite setting was in Ruth's "Red Kettle Christmas" in 1947 at Thanksgiving/Christmas time. I was there for many years as a child as my parents took me into the City for the Macy's Day parade and Radio City Music hall shows. We went for years.

There is a child in "Red Kettle Christmas" who would have been close to my age at the time. As such I related most to the child and not the hero.

Of course, this might be mostly nostalgia because the sites so wonderfully described in the book, right down to the smell of bagels as you walked down the street, are venues I've actually visited first hand. To what degree I am filling in any gaps in the descriptions with my actual recollections and to what extent my 'memories' are really the result of reading the descriptions, is something I can't determine.

What I do know for certian is that reading "Red Kettle Christmas" is the closest I'll ever come to having a time machine and that makes all the difference.


P.S. Funny thing. Linda and I have been to Hot Springs several times and very much enjoyed it. I was all excited that your "With this Spark" story, 'Lifetime Investment." was set in Hot Springs -- but then the first thing the hero does is move to desolate Texas. : )

Keli Gwyn said...

I enjoy setting my stories in the heart of California's Gold Country where I live. Bringing some of the historic towns from the Golden State's early days to life in my stories is a blast.

Cindy W. said...

I loved the 'homefront' setting in Sarah Sundin's A Distant Melody as she had it set in my hometown, Riverside California and March AFB (where I was born). She even mentioned the original Navel Orange tree that was in the town. I felt like I was right there even though it was set in a time before I was born. I love it when an author can stir up feeling about the setting that allows the reader to climb into the story and be a part of it.d

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Mary Preston said...

When the author knows their setting intimately it shines through and enhances the story beautifully.

Kelly Bridgewater said...

Thank you, Myra for a great reminder of how important the setting is to our stories. I really like Susan May Warren's Deep Haven setting. She brings it to life so intimately that I feel her love for North Minnesota. I would like to be entered to win When the Clouds Roll By. I have been wanting to read this series for a while.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, LOL! The hero MOVED????? Myra, what were you thinking? Oh, that's funny....

Vince, I love that setting in Red Kettle Christmas so much! I always loved Miracle on 34th Street, you know how much I love NYC, and I fell into that contract... and the historical... when someone else couldn't fulfill the terms and the pub board and my agent mentioned me because of my love for New York... Right there was the Holy Spirit at work, right?

That was such a different time, different rules... and the show "Call the Midwife" had just come on, so I had research on nurseries, midwifery and isolettes right in front of me. Oh, that God!

I'm so glad you love it, Vince!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, thank you for including me in this! I'm so honored. Holly Jacobs sets most of her books right in her own backyard, and I love that about her work. Her stories bring Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania to life, that whole area of Ohio/PA/NY is such a great corridor of city/town/lakes/mountains/farm that you have a whole array of settings at your fingertips!

To me, setting is the cake and the story is the frosting and the decorations and the words on top... and maybe a fruit filling!!!! But without the cake you have no bones.

And cake makes some very tasty bones!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Are you setting a book in Montana?? I love Montana. Flat Head Lake here I come!!!

Mary Hicks said...

My small town is much like Mary C's description of Nebraska. Nice, nice people who help each other and anywhere you go, you run into cousins. And yes, they all know your business. You never just quickly run to the store—after visiting with everyone you run into, it's hours later when you finally get home.

I love the feeling of belonging, and I don't mind that everybody knows my business. :-)

But I love NYC and my story setting is a small town just outside of NYC.

Hallee Bridgeman said...

I love developing a setting. In my WWII series, I created a town in Occupied France. It was a blast drawing maps, creating the history, and then writing 7 books with high-action happening in and around that town.

I recently beta read a book by Rose McCauly that will be released this month that took place in Puerto Rico. By the time I finished reading it, I could almost smell the sea, the setting was so beautifully crafted.

Barbara Scott said...

Myra, I so wanted to make a trip to Montana while writing my novel but couldn't swing it. Instead, I Googled my little heart out, pestered my best friend about growing up there, and dredged up forty-year-old memories of driving across that vast, empty countryside. While it's a big plus to travel to your locale, other methods work too. :)

kaybee said...

Good morning, MYRA! I love strong settings. In the past couple of years I've enjoyed Melody Carlson's "River" series and Eva Marie Everson's "Sunset Key." In both of these trilogies, the setting is strong and an integral part of the story. It almost functions like another character. I think it behooves us (BEHOOVE, my Reader's Digest Word of the Day) to integrate our characters and settings so that it really couldn't have happened anywhere else. The Oregon Trail is an example: if the romance could have happened just as well back in Podunk or Boston, the author isn't using their setting to the fullest.
The Oregon Trail, and subsequent settling in the Oregon Country, is the setting for two of my stories. I'm trying to make it like "this couldn't have happened in any other place."
My other series takes place just after World War I, like yours, but mine is in New York City, Hell's Kitchen and The Bowery, and much of it revolves around work in a settlement house among the city's poorest of the poor. Again, I tried to integrate the setting with the characters' issues.
I do love small towns and hope to create one some day and do some contemporary romances. One of the towns I cover in my day job is quirky and having growing pains, but recently, when a beloved high school basketball coach died unexpectedly, the whole town turned out and the line stretched around the high school. They take care of their own.

Loraine Nunley said...

One of my favorite settings in a book series is the Cape Light town written by Thomas Kinkade. I love to revisit that town and it's people.

DebH said...

Hi Missy
I love when Tina and Audra write about Colorado. I was born there but unfortunately cannot seem to get back home. (left to east coast for grad school 18 years ago - still here *sigh* with the masters degree...) So I love any book with mountain settings. Rocky Mountains in particular.

When I was younger, I wanted the planet setting of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy author, Anne McCaffrey, to be a real place. I guess that's a kid thing, but there it is... I wanted a fictional planet to truly exist because of how cool she made it sound.

Would love my name in the doggie dish for your book. Fun post Myra! I need to double check my ms setting to see if I've done enough to "flesh" it out.

Dora Hiers said...

Loved, loved, loved your Hot Springs setting and how you brought it to life in When the Clouds Roll By, Myra. And I echo a comment about a new series set in Montana! Bring it!! xo

Cindy Regnier said...

Hi Myra. Such an interesting post. Sometimes I feel like we all think the rest of the country's culture is just like wherever we live. Though a narrow-minded concept, it's easy to believe. I live in (very) small town Kansas. My BIL from Minneapolis Minnesota was recently here. He loved the small town, close-knit culture, so very different from the big city. Sometimes we just need to get out of our little area and experience something else. My writing is usually set in the Kansas Flint Hills. Beautiful area - a too-well kept Kansas secret. But my CP has told me to branch out - try another area, learn about it too. Yeah - she's probably right.
When the Cloud Roll By is on my TBR. Please throw my name in the dog dish - although most anything I put in a dog dish gets snarfed down pretty quick!

Myra Johnson said...

Good morning, Seekerville! Just getting my act together and finishing a cup of Earl Gray green tea. Fun to read through everyone's comments on memorable settings! I'll be back to respond to each of you once I get the computer fired up. Typing on my iPad is an exercise in messed-up autocorrect!!!

Julie Lessman said...

Fun post, Myra -- I have always loved discussions on setting because it SO affects a story for me. So much so that I often find myself going back in my own books and enriching the setting to give me more of the feel I'm looking for.

I chose Boston for my Daughters of Boston series as a 12-year-old fascinated with Disney's Swamp Fox set during the Revolutionary War. Don't ask me why because the series was not set in Boston, but the idea of the Revolutionary War somehow enhanced Boston's appeal for me. I guess I just loved the idea of Boston's rich history.

But when I picked up that unfinished ms I'd started as a kid to continue on when I was in my 50s, I was shocked to discover that Boston was the heart of Irish America, so that sealed the deal, Boston's "Southie" neighborhood the new home for the O'Connors! And I've loved Boston ever since!!


Caryl Kane said...

Hello Myra! I am grew up in a very small beach town of about 600 hundred people. Small town life does have it's advantages.

As a reader I appreciate stories with rich details that bring the story to life. Thank you for your out of the box approach to your stories.

Vince said...

Hi Cindy W:

I read "A Distant Melody" when it came out and loved it. I've lived in souther California and I went to March AFB while on leave from Europe to get paid.

Funny, I was attracted to "A Distant Melody" because it was so much like "Letter From Home" by Carolyn Hart which is set in wartime northeast Oklahoma where I've lived for over 37 years.

The setting is so true to life, I'd read the book for the setting alone. Of course there is an amazing Carolyn Hart mystery as part of the story. If you have not read Hart's book, I think you are in for a real treat.


Vince said...

Hi Myra:

I once read a book, a long time ago, about 'internal landscapes' -- I'm not sure now if it was poetry, psychology, or philosophy. In any event, I think that things that are true about exterior landscapes have analogs that are also true for internal landscapes.

I have not explored this! Do you have any thoughts on creating the internal landscapes of characters? This might make a real nice part II to today's post.


Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Myra! I love hearing all the comments, too, about other setting for stories. These landscapes all help give us each a different voice! And as Vince mentioned, there's also internal landscapes that inform the stories as well.

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

I had two more thoughts on settings now that I've had a morning coffee (and before I spend all day on line edits!)

In which fictional setting would you choose the live?

Hands down: Canyon Springs by Glynna Kaye. In fact I already feel like a resident. I love that area and it kind of lets you be a 'snow bird' without having to move out of Arizona.

Most interesting, surprising, and all encompassing setting?

Our friend K.C. Frantzen second May the K9 Spy story, "May Finds a Way: Peril in Paris" which takes place in Paris as seen though the eyes of a dog,(which means mostly thru the nose!) from about 12 inches off the ground. What is so interesting are the little observed locations between the famous locations everyone knows about. "May Finds a Way: Peril in Paris" is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding reading experiences I've ever had and I didn't even have a grandchild to read the book to. That would have made it all the more fun. Setting is king in this story.


Myra Johnson said...

Okay, I'm back!

VINCE, I agree--RUTHY's Red Kettle Christmas was a lovely story with a truly vivid setting. I think nostalgia plays a huge role in how readers respond to story settings. There's such a deeply emotional connection.

Sorry to disappoint you by moving Lily and Adam to Texas! But if you want more Hot Springs settings, you'll find them in my Till We Meet Again series, all of the stories set in Hot Springs. My next series, Flowers of Eden, is also set in Arkansas, and book 2 will briefly take some of the characters to Hot Springs.

Myra Johnson said...

KELI, there is so much history in your part of California! I'm sure you have access to all kinds of research sources to bring your stories to life!

Vince said...


I also like the speakeasy scene in Julie's "A Love Surrendered". I don't think any other scene could make the hero more uncomfortable. Brilliant scene for creating the needed foundation for the rest of the story. I can remember admiring the scene as I read it. (You have to be there. : ))

Myra Johnson said...

CINDY, I haven't had a chance to read the Sarah Sundin novel in my TBR stack yet, but I've heard they are really good. How cool to discover more about the history of a setting that has special memories for you!

Myra Johnson said...

MARY PRESTON, I agree. Setting adds so much to the depth and enjoyment of a story.

KELLY, I will have to take your word for SMW's depiction of northern Minnesota. That's cold country, and I know I'd never survive a winter that far north! Got your name in the dog dish!

Myra Johnson said...

Um, yes, RUTHY, the H/H moved to Texas. So sue me. ;)

I agree--you were perfect to write Red Kettle Christmas. Just a truly charming story!

Myra Johnson said...

TINA, we actually had lunch at Flathead Lake! So pretty! Haven't thought of any Montana story ideas yet--still too much to write in my Arkansas series. But maybe someday . . . At least I have research sources right there in the heart of things.

Myra Johnson said...

MARY HICKS, I'm guessing a lot of small-town communities are that way. I mean, what else are they going to do for entertainment besides get in each other's business? ;)

Myra Johnson said...

HALLEE, your French setting sounds fascinating! I've mostly written about American settings, but Every Tear a Memory begins in France. It was interesting and very, very sad to read about what the country was like in the aftermath of WWI.

Myra Johnson said...

Right, BARBARA, when all else fails, GOOGLE!!! I love Google Earth for that reason--being able to see the actual lay of the land. Of course, it doesn't always help as much for historical fiction except for the topography. Since roads and some lakes are man-made, they may not have even existed during the story's time frame.

Mary Curry said...

Funny you should move the hero to Texas, Myra. I've only been there twice but for some reason, my LIS books keep ending up in Texas no matter where they stat.

As for books I love to read - anything near/on the ocean gets me immediately. Those beautiful beach covers - they get me every time (especially if there's a lighthouse!).

My favorite setting to write is my favorite place to be - coastal Maine. I have a series I'm working on that is set in southern Maine. It's a good excuse to spend time there, soaking in the atmosphere.

My daughter went to college in Maine and I remember being there for the Q&A when someone asked about admissions. They mentioned the applicant needing a Maine attitude. They couldn't quite explain it, but they claimed to know it when they saw it in the application. I guess she had "it" since she got in. ;)

I do know what they mean though - I guess like a lot of places that are rugged with difficult weather. It takes a hardiness to survive and a certain attitude to thrive.

Loved your post today.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Myra~
Book settings really enhance stories I've read. Like several others have mentioned, I've enjoyed the small town vibe of Cape Light, Deep Haven and Mitford too. I've read almost every book in all three series, so there's something to be said for establishing a setting, making a reader feel like it's some place they've been and know well, like visiting out of town family.

On the other hand, being able to "travel" to new places never before visited is one of the most exciting things about reading. Through the pages of books, I've been all over the world to place I'll never actually see in this lifetime. Historical books like When the Clouds Roll By provide the same adventure, the ability to travel to a place and time and experience life as it was then.

I have some of my grandpa and great-uncles letters written home from that time period. I love the look of those old letters and stamps and what they thought interesting to write home about.

Please enter me in the drawing for your book, I'd love to experience WW1 through your characters eyes.

Myra Johnson said...

"Behoove"--Love it, KAYBEE!!! Yes, I agree--setting should be integral to the story in some way. Even fictional small towns play a role because of everything we've already said about how everyone knows your business there. And your story of the coach who died and all the respect he had garnered is a perfect example.

Your Hell's Kitchen story sounds fascinating, too, exactly the right blend of history, characters, and setting!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, LORAINE! If Kincade story settings are as beautiful as his paintings, I can understand your longing to revisit them!

Myra Johnson said...

DEB H, Colorado is a beautiful state. My husband has several cousins living there, but we haven't visited as much in recent years as we used to. Last time was when the ACFW conference was held in Denver.

And you know, there are times I wouldn't mind living on another planet. ;-D

Myra Johnson said...

Hey, DORA, my friend! Thanks for dropping by! I guess I'll have to start pondering a Montana story eventually. I think I'm going to be "living" in Arkansas for the next several months, though.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, CINDY R! It's both interesting and amazing to think of all the differences from one region of America to another. Even things as simple as how people refer to a canned soft drink. Is it soda? Coke? Pop? Little word choices can make a big difference!

And big city to small town--talk about culture shock! I've decided I like mid-sized cities best, an acceptable blend of both worlds. Enough shopping & dining variety to keep me satisfied but not so many freeway interchanges and traffic snarls to make me insane!

Myra Johnson said...

JULIE, your Boston setting really came alive in that series! I'll always remember our trip to Boston several years ago while our daughter was visiting the grad school she planned to attend nearby in South Hamilton. It was amazing to walk the streets where American legends like Paul Revere had traveled and to see where so much of our history took place.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, CARYL! I love the beach, and I enjoy beach stories. A small town at the coast definitely has its own personality. Have you written about the place where you grew up?

Myra Johnson said...

Hey, VINCE & MISSY! Internal landscapes . . . that's getting deep! Do you mean the nuances of character and personality? The things that shape us over a lifetime into the people we are now? Interesting and thought-provoking!

Myra Johnson said...

VINCE asks: In which fictional setting would you choose to live?

Wow. I'll have to think about that one and get back to you. It would have to be somewhere with a mild climate and beautiful scenery, that's for sure!

Myra Johnson said...

MARY CURRY, I lived my whole life in Texas until 2006 when we moved to Oklahoma (which I always described as FAR North Texas--LOL!). Now I'm in NC, but I'll always be a Texan by birth and at heart. So it's very natural for me to have some or all of a story take place somewhere in Texas.

And I'm with you on beach stories. There's something so inviting about those coastal scenes!

Maine? Been there once, on the same trip I mentioned earlier when replying to JULIE about Boston. We were there in October, a beautiful time when the leaves were turning and it hadn't gotten too chilly yet. We did get pretty cold up at Acadia National Park, though! What a coastline!!!

Myra Johnson said...

TRACEY, it's true--a good book can take us places we've never been before and make those places seem so real and alive. When an author blends in factual details about a real place so that you feel immersed in it but not like you're in a high school lecture class, that's a real skill!

Julie Lessman said...

Gosh, Myra, I am soooo jealous you got to see Boston!! Would you believe I've never been there (except in my dreams)??? I have begged Keith to plan a visit there, but he hates Boston from his traveling days and refuses to go. So it's either go by myself (which is no fun) or arm-chair travel through my books and other Boston-set books! :(

VINCE SAID: "I also like the speakeasy scene in Julie's "A Love Surrendered". I don't think any other scene could make the hero more uncomfortable. Brilliant scene for creating the needed foundation for the rest of the story. I can remember admiring the scene as I read it. (You have to be there. : ))"

AW, thanks, Vince, I did work hard on that scene because it took a lot of research to get the details right. Plus I researched Eliot Ness since he was Steven's hero and a model for me to flesh out Steven.

I forgot to say that one author I always think of when we talk "setting" is Laura Frantz. I have to say that setting is so powerful in her books that it's almost like another character. :)


Vince said...

"Oklahoma as Far North Texas?"

That's okay.
Okies call Texas "Baja Oklahoma".

Oklahoma -- where the best Texas high school football players come to get a college education!

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Myra! Please enter me in the drawing. You had me at Hot Springs. When I was a teen, my parents took the family for a vacation there. What a beautiful area! The notion of hot springs having health benefits was new to me, so it was an educational trip as well. Bonus! We have a similar area here in Indiana, although not as big or well-known, called French Lick. Um, not putting that in a book anytime soon. :-) Thanks for the setting tips!

Amber Schamel said...

Good morning SEEKERS!

Myra, thanks so much for this post. I think settings are an area that I could polish up in my stories. I write historical, and sometimes that makes it really hard to get solid information on the location at that point in history. (Such as cities or towns that no longer exist.)

Somewhere along the line I heard the fabulous RUTHY say that setting is actually like another character in our story. That really helped me a lot.

As a reader, I LOVE great settings. Sarah Sundin and team did a great job in the Where Treetops Glisten anthology with the setting, and I loved it. And of course, Little House on the Prairie is a classic example of setting.

Have any of you seen The Book Thief? I haven't read the book yet, but in the movie, the setting is awesome. You pick up on the hostility and tension of the time, yet you still have Rudy and his family, and some other neighbors that make it a warm and friendly place. Then again you have the bully and the threat of being turned in for keeping Max in the basement. The writer did a great job blending yet contrasting these two elements of the setting.

Myra Johnson said...


How well I remember the Texas/OU rivalry!!!

Although I could not care less about football in general. ;-D

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, MEGHAN! We have been vacationing in Hot Springs since the mid-'80s. We own a timeshare condo there and try to visit for a week almost every year. We never get tired of just loafing around playing tourist (and in recent years doing historical research for my novels!).

Um, yeah, I think if you wanted to write about French Lick, that could get weird. :)

Deanna Stevens said...

I've lived in the panhandle, central and now eastern my whole life and ~ I'm A Nebraska Cornhusker here! I enjoyed reading about where some of the authors hail from.. I had not heard of river surfing either.. guess the river around my hometown is too gentle for that..
I'd like my name thrown in the dog dish please :)

Vince said...


You wrote:

"I have begged Keith to plan a visit there, but he hates Boston from his traveling days and refuses to go. So it's either go by myself (which is no fun) or arm-chair travel through my books and other Boston-set books! :("

Come on!
Be a heroine!
Do you think that would stop Katie O'Connor from going to Boston -- or even law school!

Every woman should be a heroine in her own life!

Besides I'm sure Ruth would meet you there and you could both watch the Yankees trounce the Sox at that little historic ballpark.

Wilani Wahl said...

Myra, A wonderful post. I love when I am reading to feel like I am also a member of the community. My goal as I write is to also create that feeling. I have a suggestion since there are so many awesome posts here, have you wonderful Seekers ever thought about combining them into a book on writing? I have started once a week to print off all the posts of that week and then keep them in a loose leaf notebook so I can have easy access when I need them.

Please put my name in the dog dish. I would love to own a copy of your book.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, AMBER! Yes, I agree, a well-drawn setting can be like another character in the story. And it can take some digging to learn what a particular place was like in the past.

Yes, I remember seeing The Book Thief movie. It's been awhile, but I recall some parts. Those were really hard times that brought out the courage of some special people.

Myra Johnson said...

Yes, DEANNA, the river surfing was crazy-weird! There are rapids right there, and these guys in wetsuits would paddle out to the rapids and try to stand up on their boards. They just stay in one place, though. It's not like paddling out into the ocean and riding a wave back to shore.

Myra Johnson said...

WILANI, it sounds like you already have a Seekerville "book" of posts--and thank you!!! I seem to remember the possibility bouncing around among us once or twice, but none of us has jumped on the idea and run with it. We're too busy writing our own books right now, I guess--which actually is a good thing!

Tracey Hagwood said...

More awesome settings I've enjoyed:

Tina's Paradise, Colorado, love everything about this town including the bakery!

Ruthys Men of Allegany County/Kirkwood series, my first NY trips!

Myra Johnson said...

I agree, TRACEY!

Debby Giusti said...

Myra, lovely discussion on setting!

Is the Army & Navy Hospital still in operation? Or has it been turned into something else, like vacation condos? :)

I'm sad about beautiful Fort McPherson, a very old Army post situated in the heart of Atlanta. Regrettably it closed a few years ago, and it's future is up in the air. Looks like it may be sold to a movie studio. The post traces its roots to well before the Civil War. Think huge oak trees and gorgeous old brick quarters that have housed so many of our well known heroes from days past. Certainly the perfect setting for an historical military series.


CatMom said...

Great post, Myra - - love reading stories in various settings, but small-towns are my favorite to read (and write).

Ditto what Debby Giusti just posted about our Fort McPherson closing down - - I have sweet memories of driving my Daddy there to pick up his prescriptions, and how it always tickled him when the guard would salute after we stopped at the gate. :)

No need to enter me in your drawing, as I have (and LOVE) your book!

Hugs, Patti Jo

p.s. Myra, WHAT?? NO cats?? You need to come and get some of these sweet strays I'm feeding daily, LOL.

Barbara Scott said...

JULIE, let's plan a research trip to Boston!!! I'm a chicken when it comes to going places by myself. Besides, we can write it off on our taxes. LOL It was so reassuring to me that you've never been to Boston even though you brought that setting to life in your books!

The first third of my new novel is set in Boston so I'm living on Google these days. I've included the opening lines of my FIRST DRAFT below when my Civil War hero, who has built a new life in Montana Territory, comes home. He suffers from PTSD, although they didn't call it that at the time. Vets often ended up in asylums back then because they were thought to be mentally weak. We've come a long way, baby.

"A deafening clap of thunder rumbled down the South Slope of Beacon Hill as Josh Carpenter stepped out of the hired hansom cab into the driving rain. Holding on to his black Stetson in the high wind, he paid the driver and took the marble steps of the mansion two at a time."

kaybee said...

JULIE LESSMAN AND BARBARA SCOTT,I live in New Hampshire and go to Boston on a fairly regular basis. Let me know if you pull it off and we can meet and talk shop, uh, books. Offer goes for the rest of the Seekers and Villagers.
Kathy B
Not too far from Boston in New Hampshire

kaybee said...

JULIE LESSMAN AND BARBARA SCOTT,I live in New Hampshire and go to Boston on a fairly regular basis. Let me know if you pull it off and we can meet and talk shop, uh, books. Offer goes for the rest of the Seekers and Villagers.
Kathy B
Not too far from Boston in New Hampshire

kaybee said...

JULIE AND BARBARA, I have always wanted to do a Boston-based story. It is such a rich, cosmopolitan and historic city, but small enough to be manageable. I did one when I was younger, but it was about the hippies and the Summer of Love and it ws awful. Not even sophomoric, it was freshmanistic. And self-indulgent, and didn't say anything new about the 60s. But maybe I'll try again. Ah, the breeze off the water in the Esplanade, the violet panes of glass in the Beacon Hill mansions, the gold dome of the State House, the rich smells emanating from the North End, the crooked alleys and exotic enclaves in Chinatown, the rosy cheeks of skaters on the pond of the Common. New Year's Eve on the Common, the parade, the stilt-walkers, the ice sculptures, the fireworks. The Museum of Fine Arts and the quirky , Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which has been the setting for several Boston stories, mostly mysteries. And let us not forget the Cradle of Liberty stuff. If I do a Boston story, it will probably be an historical in the Revolutionary period. If you do come to Boston, don't forget the side trip to Lexington and Concord. Which still sends chills up my spine. The Concord site is a little out of the way, but the Lexington green is still RIGHT IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN. College kids throw Frisbees on it, high schoolers do their homework, moms with strollers and business people take a break on the grass on the very site where freedom was born and a ragtag group of farmers and businessmen stood up to the greatest Colonial power of the known world. And did something no one had ever done before. Even though they still had a few bugs to work out (Confederate flag, anybody?) Whew. I'm homesick for Boston and I'm already here.

kaybee said...

JULIE AND BARBARA, I have always wanted to do a Boston-based story. It is such a rich, cosmopolitan and historic city, but small enough to be manageable. I did one when I was younger, but it was about the hippies and the Summer of Love and it ws awful. Not even sophomoric, it was freshmanistic. And self-indulgent, and didn't say anything new about the 60s. But maybe I'll try again. Ah, the breeze off the water in the Esplanade, the violet panes of glass in the Beacon Hill mansions, the gold dome of the State House, the rich smells emanating from the North End, the crooked alleys and exotic enclaves in Chinatown, the rosy cheeks of skaters on the pond of the Common. New Year's Eve on the Common, the parade, the stilt-walkers, the ice sculptures, the fireworks. The Museum of Fine Arts and the quirky , Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which has been the setting for several Boston stories, mostly mysteries. And let us not forget the Cradle of Liberty stuff. If I do a Boston story, it will probably be an historical in the Revolutionary period. If you do come to Boston, don't forget the side trip to Lexington and Concord. Which still sends chills up my spine. The Concord site is a little out of the way, but the Lexington green is still RIGHT IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN. College kids throw Frisbees on it, high schoolers do their homework, moms with strollers and business people take a break on the grass on the very site where freedom was born and a ragtag group of farmers and businessmen stood up to the greatest Colonial power of the known world. And did something no one had ever done before. Even though they still had a few bugs to work out (Confederate flag, anybody?) Whew. I'm homesick for Boston and I'm already here.

Barbara Scott said...

KAYBEE, that's so generous of you! Thanks for the offer. :)

Sandy Smith said...

Great post, Myra. I love Montana. We are thinking of including it in our vacation next summer. I agree that setting is important. As a fellow Nebraskan, I can vouch for everything Mary said. All you have to do to start a conversation with anybody is talk about the Huskers! I live in Kearney which is a great place to live. We have a university and lots of culture and neat places to visit.

I am currently writing a book about a tornado with Nebraska as my setting. Weather is also most important in Nebraska. It is the perfect setting for this book.

An author that comes to mind for me with location is Nicholas Sparks and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I love that area, too.

Julie, I can't believe you haven't been to Boston! I love it! So much history and a really neat city.

Please enter me in the dog dish, please!

Janet Dean said...

Myra, Excellent questions to help writers bring our settings alive! Love your photos and what your kids are doing to spread the gospel in non-traditional ways.

With rare exception, I write small towns in the late 1800s or early 1900s when townspeople know and support each other and often stick their noses in others' business. The tension between private and public, especially when it comes to customs and values, makes writing small towns great fun.


Janet Dean said...

Vince, I enjoyed Ruthy's Red Kettle Christmas setting, too. When we've been to the location that just raises the enjoyment of the reading experience.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, I never sue over fictional moves... and they're so much easier than the real deal!

One setting I loved was the Blue Ridge/Appalachia in Christy. There's such an old-world feel to the deep mountains, the thickly-forested valley floors, and the range of slopes. I laugh when folks talk about densely forested western mountains because it's a totally different thing. They're thick, but nothing like the deciduous forest lands of the Atlantic coast. But if I didn't live in the Eastern deciduous woodland, I wouldn't realize the difference because most people just think trees are trees and forest is forest.

But Christy took us into the backwoods/backward part of Appalachia, where folks could disappear and never be seen again. Did you know there's a section of Pennsylvania (YES!!! PENNSYLVANIA!!!) called The Wilds because it's so dense that there are no roads through the mountains there. It's Northern Appalachia, just below the NYS line, in the mid-central PA area, and while roads go all around it... very few go into the Wilds... and they say if Sasquatch lives anywhere, it's in the Wilds.

That's what I loved about Christy, that besides the obvious human element, there were mountain shadows and thickets and densely wooded ranges that could hide a man for decades.

Janet Dean said...

Myra, your stories make me want to visit Hot Springs! One day...


Myra Johnson said...

DEBBY, there are several of the original Army & Navy Hospital buildings still in existence in Hot Springs, but the main Swiss-chalet-style building was replaced in the 1930s with a "modern" brick veteran's hospital that became the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center in the 1960s.

Yes, it's sad when historical sites are no longer preserved and their importance begins to fade from memory. Fort McPherson sounds like a beautiful setting.

Myra Johnson said...

PATTI JO, I do love cats, but when our last one died many years ago, we never got another one, mainly because of a grandson's allergies. Now that he's all grown up and we don't see him as often, it might be time to rethink a kitty. We'll see . . . Convincing hubby might not be so easy.

Janet Dean said...

I've heard Nora say she never visits the settings she's going to write about and she does a wonderful job bringing places alive in her books. Thanks to the Internet, museum curators, we can learn a lot sitting in our homes. But, who doesn't love to travel?


Myra Johnson said...

BARBARA, your story opening sounds intriguing! My post-WWI novels touch on shell shock and how victims were treated with censure and disrespect. Yes, we've come a long way!

Myra Johnson said...

KAYBEE, what wonderful descriptions of Boston! Yep, you need to write them into a story!

Myra Johnson said...

SANDY, you make a great point about how weather and setting go hand in hand. Kansas and Nebraska and tornadoes. The Gulf Coast and hurricanes. Blizzards in the mountains. Blistering heat in the Southwest.

Myra Johnson said...

JANET, I love your small-town historical romances! Those close-knit communities have such potential for conflicting values and agendas, and when an outsider enters the picture . . . look out!

Jon and Vicki Marney said...

Great post--I REALLY need to work more on setting descriptions in both of my current WIP' s! One takes place, mostly in Hawaii--NO EXCUSE for not having WONDERFUL setting descriptions. I do have some, but I think I need to flesh them out more.
My other book takes place in Portland, OR (I live in the suburbs of Portland) and I have very little setting descriptions included at this point; however, I was thinking of taking my characters on a 'trip to the Oregon Coast' since we have such a WONDERFUL coastline. Hmm...more work in store for me. If I would just slow down all the wonderful countries that I'm getting to see right now, during this season of my life (traveling w/hubby for work) mane I could spend more time remembering 'time at home' as well as our wonderful times in Hawaii (on vacations). ;-)
Actually, I was thinking that MAYBE, I need to write a story about a person who travels all over the world like I've been doing--I certainly have a lot of personal experience in the travel world right now...
Yet, first, I need to finish the two WIP & say FINISHED! Before moving on to another. ;-)
PS my travels are not ALWAYS outside of the U.S. And I have also been to Boston (once for 4 weeks)--such rich history to see while there!), Boulder, Colorado a LOT (I LOVE the beautiful surrounding Rocky Mountains & have had the pleasure of whit-water rafting TWICE. (The 1st time was for one of my previous birthdays, because I wanted to prove I wasn't as old as the numbers flying by--yep, I took a bit of that trip, floating down the creek, Rapids & all--and SURVIVED!) also beautiful Connecticut, near NYC, requiring (in my mind) some NYC visits). I have even been to Mahwah, New Jersey! Just a few of our crazy travel locations... LOL

Myra Johnson said...

Fascinating, RUTHY! I'm reading Lisa Wingate's The Story Keeper right now, and it's set in the Appalachians of North Carolina, kind of a time slip story, or a story within a story. It's enthralling.

Myra Johnson said...

You know, JANET, as writers, we're basically doing research wherever we travel! I was inspired by our trip to Kenya a couple of summers ago to use Kenya as one of the settings in my current wip. Really hope I'm doing it justice!

Myra Johnson said...

VICKI, it sounds like you've traveled to some really beautiful and interesting places! The trick about incorporating them into stories is to select your details carefully. What setting best suits this scene? What is the POV character most likely to notice about the setting? How will the setting affect the characters emotionally? How can I describe the setting effectively without making it sound like a travelogue?

Yes, it's a challenge--but a fun one!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I love watching the Yankees beat up on Boston at Fenway!!! How did you know????

And the Boston fans chant AWFUL THINGS.... :)

And I wear my Jeter shirt and smile.

I actually love visiting Boston. My youngest son did graduate work there, and worked for PWC for three years, and he was at the finish line of the marathon about a half hour before those bombs exploded.... So for all my digs at the Red Sox (what kind of name is that, anyway???) I love Boston!

But I love NYC more. :)

Julie, I'll meet you there! We can do a Seeker trip!

Kathryn Barker said...

Delightful post, Myra. I've always wanted to go to Montana...Wyoming is the closest we've managed. My family spent an incredible few days in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Saw The Great Passion Play...what an amazing outdoor experience...all the live animals and a cast of over 100! The local shop owners were a hoot!

Honestly, I don't have a favorite setting...I seem to love them all...from the Scottish highlands to the Ozarks and everything in between, around or up and down! Fort, ghost town, city, small town, ship, plane or wagon train...

All our hometowns offered some story-worthy considerations. But, my favorite place where I call home... although we don't live there right now (we still have a ranch, but lease out the ground) is an eighty-mile long valley tucked in the northeast corner of California bordering Oregon and Nevada. Cowboy country...and all the small town stuff. I really miss it!!

I'd love it if you'd throw my name in the doggie dish...we don't have cats either...Sweet Husband is VERY allergic to them, but they sure are cute!!

Myra Johnson said...

KATHRYN, we've never had a chance to see the Passion Play in Eureka Springs, but they have a smaller version near Hot Springs that we went to one summer. It was really special.

Oh, and in 2000 we went to the Passion Play in Oberamergau, Germany. That's an all-day event with intermission for lunch. It's held only every 10 years, and people come from all over to see it. Wow, what an experience!

Your ranch sounds so pretty! Do you get to visit very often?

Kathryn Barker said...

Vicki Marney,

We just got back from Sandy, Oregon. Our kids live in St. Helens, Oregon and we LOVE Portland. I think if I ever used Portland for a setting all my characters would do is eat...so, so many really great restaurants! It's a foodie heaven!!

One of my writer friends made a trip to the Philipines to do research for a book and, yep...she met her dream guy and married him!! Long Live Romance!!

Have a delightful day everyone!!

Myra Johnson said...

Sounds like a fun plot for a romance novel, KATHRYN! ;)

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, VINCE ... I'm not Katie O'Connor, trust me, at least not anymore. She was modeled after my daughter, actually, very organized with lists galore. Now me? Uh, not so much ...

Believe it or not, I have NEVER been real big on traveling, even when I worked at a big travel company that sent me to Hawaii and the Caribbean because those were the territories for which I was a buyer back then for the company. I have to literally DRAG myself to ACFW each year (except not this year). And it's gotten even worse in the last few years since Keith drives me everywhere (yes, it really IS like Driving Miss Daisy!!), so I've gotten lazy as far as going anywhere on my own.

But, BARBARA, that doesn't sound like a bad idea, girlfriend, although my Boston books are already written, so not sure that I could write it off ... :)

BARBARA SAID: "The first third of my new novel is set in Boston so I'm living on Google these days. I've included the opening lines of my FIRST DRAFT below when my Civil War hero, who has built a new life in Montana Territory, comes home. He suffers from PTSD, although they didn't call it that at the time. Vets often ended up in asylums back then because they were thought to be mentally weak. We've come a long way, baby.

"A deafening clap of thunder rumbled down the South Slope of Beacon Hill as Josh Carpenter stepped out of the hired hansom cab into the driving rain. Holding on to his black Stetson in the high wind, he paid the driver and took the marble steps of the mansion two at a time."

Oooooo, sounds soooo good, Barbara -- cannot wait to read it!


Julie Lessman said...

KATHY BAILEY!!! Goodness, you just gave all us a wonderful tour of Boston -- THANK YOU!! But I notice you left out my beloved Southie neighborhood, which I grew to love through the course of writing seven books about it. :)

And, WOW, did I ever have fun writing about Revere Beach in my final O'Connor book, where quite a few scenes took place. It was fun to research and learn about the famous Ocean Pier Dance Pavilion, which rose from the water like a glittering fairy-tale castle jutting high in the sky at the end of a pier. It had lots of terraces and towers aglow with endless strings of lights and was built in 1911 on a pier that extended 1,450 feet over the water. This palatial structure housed dance marathons, a sumptuous café, and a roller-skating rink. Add to that the thrill of the Cyclone Rollercoaster, the romantic Hippodrome Carousel, or moonlight strolls on Ocean Pier, and it was the PERFECT setting for a romance to bloom!

Trust me, girlfriend, if I ever get to Boston, I will let you know so we can do coffee!


Cara Lynn James said...

I think is fun that setting can act as another character, one with tons of personality. I always like to write about a place that I love. It would be hard for me to write a setting when I've never been there. Research is wonderful but it's no substitute for actually visiting or better yet, living there.

Myra Johnson said...

CARA, I have to agree--nothing like experiencing a locale firsthand! I do tend to write about places where I've lived or visited, but when all else fails, Google is my best friend (next to the Seekers, of course!).

Myra Johnson said...

JULIE, you really brought the dance pavilion to life in that story!

Pam Hillman said...

KB, I wonder if we all have an Oregon Trail story or two in U.S. :)

Barbara Scott said...

Drat, JULIE! Maybe your next series can be a generational saga about the O'Connor clan? Now those were some yummy heroes. ;-)

Janet Dean said...

Myra, I'm so impressed that you are using Kenya as a setting! That would really be crawling out of my comfort zone--both to go there and to set a book there.


Myra Johnson said...

JANET, it was definitely the trip of a lifetime! To get a feel for the era of my novel, I read portions of Jomo Kenyatta's book Facing Mt. Kenya. Very enlightening.

Vince said...


You wrote:

"Believe it or not, I have NEVER been real big on traveling… I have to literally DRAG myself to ACFW each year…"

So it's not the big bad husband who is keeping you from Boston!

You sound just like my wife. Whenever she tells someone I won't let her do something, it's always something she doesn't want to do anyway. Otherwise I don't get a say! : )

Debby Giusti said...

Myra, we attending the Passion Play in Oberamergau, Germany. Love that area of the country. We were there a few years before you for an anniversary showing. Can't remember how many years since they'd first started producing the play. Amazing, wasn't it! Of course, that entire area around Garmisch stole my heart. We've been back a few times, and I've love to visit again.

Myra Johnson said...

DEBBY, that was another great trip. We were doing the Martin Luther tour through Germany with a group from our church. I caught a TERRIBLE cold at Oberamergau! I'm sure sitting all day in that chilly open-air theater didn't help.

I think it was on the same trip that we ventured into Austria and got to see the setting for The Sound of Music. It makes watching the movie so much more fun!

Johanna Zipp said...

After reading Mom's post, I must say she has captured Montana well! Having only lived here 10 months, there is still much exploring to be done, but in the 5 days my folks were here visiting we were intentional about showing the contrasts of Montana culture. I had no idea it would end up in a blog post, but I feel she captured it well. It's one thing to attempt to tell people about a place, especially in our unique ministry calling, but there's nothing quite like seeing it first hand. . .unless you're lucky enough to have it described to you by a gifted writer, namely my mom! There is one factor, however, that I'm quite certain she won't be able to tell you about first hand: Montana winter! I'm not sure there will be any plans made to experience that side of Montana! Ice fishing, snow shoeing, cross country and downhill skiing, are only part of the fun! Bitterly cold, feet of snow still on the ground when the last snowfall was weeks ago, nothing closes regardless of temperature or precipitation, owning 6 different coats because they are all designed for different temps and activities, shoveling like crazy so you can still get out for work. . .Having a baby shower in your home in January where 40 women attend proven by a pile of boots and shoes by the front door was a definite winter eye opener! But my beach-loving mom will just have to take my word for it! But our calling, and the people here, are worth it all! We truly love it!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Myra, You are so right about all the elements of setting. I love to incorporate setting into my stories. My favorite settings are those in Color Country of Arizona and Utah. That part of the world is my favorite. But other settings I've used have just as much meaning. Hubby and I lived in the redwoods so Love's Miracles was set there. And in Love's Refuge, the island is one modeled after the one my aunt and uncle have their cabin on. So those were fun setting to use. I even had the hero learning how to dig clams and catch crabs like hubby and I were taught. Hero made same mistakes we did. LOL

btw, hubby and I love Montana. We've spent many summers there. The wildlife are awesome. Really makes yo understand that only a God like ours could create such amazing ecology and geography. And of course we need to put that in our books.

Myra Johnson said...

There's my firstborn daughter, JOHANNA!!! Thanks for dropping by, sweetie! Nope, no Montana winters in my future! Your description was enough to make me shiver in my nonexistent boots! Love you!!!!

Myra Johnson said...

SANDRA, you have written about some spectacular settings, all of them fully alive through your descriptions! Love's Refuge was one of my favorites.

Kathryn Barker said...

Myra...I've heard of the Passion Play in Germany but forgot it's not a yearly event. And I didn't realize it was an all day affair.

Our ranch is beautiful...but settings are so very personal. I think all the good memories influence my feelings...LOL. We don't get to go as often as we used to...we own an antique mall now and it takes lots of time! (Lots of great story ideas here too!)

Always enjoy these discussions...have to post to my antique mall page now...have a great day everyone!!

Jackie Smith said...

I loved the Red Kettle Christmas setting, too! And I enjoy Missy's small town GA settings....perhaps because I am a small town GA lady??!!! lol
Please put my name in the dish for your book....it's been on my wish list!

Myra Johnson said...

Yes, KATHRYN, Oberamergau is typically held only every 10 years. Guess they have a lot of planning and rehearsing to do! Plus it's such a HUGE production!

I'm sure you could find lots of story ideas in an antique mall. Sounds fun!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, JACKIE! Happy to add your name to the dish!

I agree, MISSY writes some great small-town-Georgia stories!

Myra Johnson said...

FYI, things may get busy around my house shortly. Our other daughter & fam are loading a U-Haul truck to move to their new home tomorrow. They're on their way over here to pick up all the stuff we've been storing for them while they were overseas missionaries for three years. It will be good to get that storage space back, and we won't have to miss them too badly because they'll only be three hours away--and not far from the beach!

So . . . if you don't hear from me for a bit, that's why. I'll check back as soon as things settle back down this evening.

Christina said...

Myra, your post couldn't have come at a better time. I spent the day rereading the last two chapters of my book, wondering if the town I've written about has really come alive. I always struggle to make my settings real for my readers. I think the questions you proposed we ask ourselves will really help me flesh my town out. Great post!

kaybee said...

JULIE, yes, Southie.

kaybee said...

I would love to do Lexington and Concord with a Seeker or two, let me know if anyone's going to be in the area.

Myra Johnson said...

Glad to be of assistance, CHRISTINA! (BTW, that's my granddaughter's middle name!)

Jackie said...

I love the North Carolina beaches, and I love that setting for my stories.

What a fun post. Thanks for sharing, Myra!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, JACKIE! South Carolina beaches are great, too--we love Edisto! Except this summer hasn't been good for shark attacks! I would be staying very close to shore, that's for sure!

Missy Tippens said...

How fun that Johanna stopped by! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Myra, I don't know the book Vince was talking about. But I would imagine that internal landscapes would having to do with the character's psychology. :)

Sarah Claucherty said...

Julie, I felt like I was walking the streets of Boston and San Francisco when I read your books for the first time. I recall being amazed at how easy it was for me to place myself in a location I'd never even come close to in actuality...

On my hometown: Unless you count a couple mostly-defunct strip clubs and a slightly-sketchy-but-starting-to-revitalize downtown area, this town is pretty tame!

Interesting tidbits: firmly in the Bible Belt (and the Corn Belt maybe?). Known as the City of Firsts. Has plenty of Big 10 rivalries since it's located between several B10 schools. Small enough to make it easy to always run into people you know or who know somebody in your family. EX: I stopped at a summer produce stand my mother favors today, and was greeted by the girls running the stand as "the zucchini lady's daughter!" Can you guess the produce my mom likes to buy there? ;)

Let's see, more fun facts: people here can tell when a melon or a tomato is an Indiana one or not just by taste. One of the first cars ever built was created here, and we have a auto museum dedicated to that manufacturer and era. Most people are in manufacturing, the auto industry, or farming.

Myra, no cats is fine by me! ;) please toss my name in the doggy dish!! Would love to win your book

Sandra Leesmith said...

Intersting tidbits SARAH. Those things need to be in your books. smile I bet you already have them.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Myra, I hope you aren't going to the beach with sharks. OF course they might be exciting in your next book. Hey, my current wip is about my heroine learning to surf (from a handsome surfer of course) Maybe I should bring in a shark. Hmmmmm. Mary has been influencing me. LOL

The Artist Librarian said...

The Alaskan setting in Danni Pettrey's romantic suspense novels come immediately to mind! Their location often played a large part in the story: rock climber found dead, a disappearance on an Alaskan cruise ship, etc. =)

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Good points here, Myra.
Thank you, and good questions to ask ourselves as we work.
Congratulations on the new boxed set with you lovely Seeker ladies!
SO exciting to see how far y'all have sailed from Unpubbed Island!

My latest (May's 4th in the series) is set on a cruise ship in the Baltic, so there is *that* setting as well as where all they are going.
Trying to write what Russia smells like from a K9 POV is a tad challenging, but oh those KGB types are fun. ;)

Myra Johnson said...

Sorry I didn't get back again later last night. Our SIL got to our house with the U-Haul truck much later than we expected. Ah, moving--nothing ever goes quickly.

SARAH, that's an interesting tidbit--identifying whether produce is local or shipped in just by the taste! And there's nothing quite as good, is there? I still remember the juicy, flavorful watermelons we used to buy from roadside stands near where I grew up. YUM!!!!

Myra Johnson said...

Uh-oh, SANDRA! Hang around with MARY too much and next you'll be shooting somebody!

Don't worry about me and sharks. I will barely get my big toes wet in the surf! If the water's warm enough, I might go in up to my knees. But always with an eye out for fins!

Myra Johnson said...

ARTIST LIBRARIAN, an Alaskan setting would be fascinating! Just think of all the things that could happen!

Except . . . you won't find me there in the winter!

One other thing I didn't mention about Montana--when we were there in June, it was still practically broad daylight at 10:00 PM!!!

Myra Johnson said...

KC, you come up with the most intriguing scenarios for May! Wow, the Baltic! Yes, I can imagine the difficulty of imagining it through the nose of a dog! What fun!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for this great topic, Myra! I am going to get your book! My next book that I'm working on touches on physiotherapy for wounded soldiers and the rehabilitation center that opened in Toronto in the early 1920s.
The hot springs sound wonderful.

Myra Johnson said...

SUE, that story sounds really interesting! As I was researching for my series, I read so many heartbreaking personal accounts of WWI experiences. In the 1920s they had so little understanding of the emotional wounds that went along with the physical injuries and the trauma of war itself.

Becky Dempsey said...

It is good to remember these ideas when I'm working on my book. My hometown is the birthplace of Meijer (which for those out of the Michigan area doesn't mean much!)

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Hi Myra,

Great post! I set my latest WIP in Northwest Florida, which is where I moved last year. I've enjoyed finding out about all the cool things here... besides the beaches, which are wonderful! :)

Please drop my name in the giveaway pot! :)