Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Seekerville Welcomes Guest Debbie Kaufman

Writing Exotic Settings

Debbie, here, waving madly to all the Seekers. Ladies, today I bring you a taste of Liberia, Africa. For breakfast, a wonderful fruit platter consisting of mangoes, bananas, plantains, papaya, coconut and pineapples, all native to Liberia. In the crock pot I have a lovely goat soup cooking for lunch. Goat soup, the Liberian National soup is served at celebrations, and since this is the release month for my debut novel, The Doctor’s Mission, I thought we ought to break out with a feast. On the table you’ll also find several rice and cassava dishes. Be aware that they aren’t for the mild spice lovers among us. There’s a reason early Portuguese explorers called Liberia “The Pepper Coast.”

When I first started pitching The Doctor’s Mission at RWA 2010, I constantly heard, “Couldn’t you set that somewhere else?” Strangely, that didn’t discourage me, because I just knew I couldn’t. Missionary Pastor William Mayweather and the lovely Dr. Mary O’Hara were destined to be pioneering jungle missionaries in 1918 Liberia. It’s not like I could put them on the moors of Scotland. How ever would I explain cannibals in kilts? Nope, it just wouldn’t work.

Fortunately for me, Love Inspired Historical was willing to branch out of their American locales and take a chance on something different, because I love exotic settings in both my books and my movies. Give me a good jungle adventure (Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, The African Queen) or plop me down in the middle of desert on a camel (The Wind and the Lion), and I’m a happy camper.

Of course, I’m doubly excited now that Love Inspired has put out a definitive call for more and different locales. So what do you need to know if you’re writing a story set not only in a different time, but in an uncommon country for romantic fiction? I’m going to share three tips that I think may help you as a writer make the reader feel right there with your characters.

1. Immerse yourself in the research. If it is a country you’ve never been to, you need maps, photos of the times, as many first-person native or traveler accounts as you can find, and, if possible, someone with firsthand experience in the country.

For mapping, I did an online search and found standard modern maps. I also fired up Google Earth for a look at the general terrain of Liberia, found some wonderful US Army maps online at the University of Texas that told me where the rapids were in a major river, and referred to maps drawn by hand from missionary accounts and those from the 1926 Harvard expedition.

2. Use accurate details, especially sensory ones.

To research the daily life, I relied heavily on Google books (use the advanced search option), purchased several used books through Amazon and others, and downloaded a lot free for my Nook. You would be amazed at how much people wrote about themselves in the past and just how much of it can be downloaded to your e-reader off Barnes and Noble and Amazon. When I read all those first-person missionary accounts, I paid particular attention to the sights and sounds they described. This is how I learned about the antics of the monkeys in the jungle canopy. Here’s an example of how I used them in the opening of the book as Pastor William waits anxiously for the Mission Board’s newest workers:

There it was. His ears hadn’t deceived him. The escalating cries of monkeys in the tree tops telegraphed a clear message over and above the noise of the busy mission compound. Someone was coming. Finally.

From these same accounts, I learned what Pastor William and Dr. Mary would have experienced on their jungle trek, what they would have seen when they reached the first village, and what they would have heard the next morning when a death was discovered in the village. Here’s an example:

William heard the women’s wailing over a loss before Hannabo reached him. It was an unmistakable sound in the bush.
Someone had died.
Hannabo came running, out of breath, tension pouring out of his very skin. The smell of fear was strong. They all had to leave the village before accusations began.

Of course, in this case, those wails were the signal for them to run for their lives so they wouldn’t be subjected to the poisoning rituals used to find the responsible party. What I didn’t tell you is everything I know about the use of sasswood to determine the guilt or innocence of an individual. Which brings me to my third point.

3. Edit your research.

I have cannibals in my book, and yes, they are historically accurate as best I can make them. But, I have to tell you that I know a lot more about cannibalism in Liberia (then and now) than ever made it into my book. I restrained myself for two reasons. First, using a lot of that research would just gross you out. It is a romance, after all. Second, you as a writer need all that knowledge so you know enough to create a naturally believable world. If you share every little research gem you mined, your readers’ focus will wander off the story and square onto that little factoid you were dying to use.

Here’s how I described Dr. Mary’s first encounter after assisting with the delivery of a notorious cannibal chief’s baby:

Two feet from the chief, she stopped, afraid to take a breath. As their eyes met, the baby stirred and let out a high piercing wail. Mary startled as did the chief. Then the most amazing thing. His face split into a wide grin, revealing two rows of teeth filed to ominous points. The incongruity of the grin and the deadly teeth drove home the reality of a cannibal standing before her. But apparently proud papa existed in every culture. He thumped his chest and shouted to the compound, pointing to his daughter, and Mary dared take a breath.

You can find a longer excerpt of The Doctor’s Mission here:


Or, for more about me and missions, visit my website at www.debbiekaufman.com

Remember, putting your reader in the exotic locale you’re writing is your number one goal. Immerse yourself in the research of the time and place so that you can bring it to life. Sensory details are a must. But, whatever you do, use well-edited information from your research to create a believable setting and characters that don’t distract the reader from the flow of the story.

Now in the spirit of creating and writing exotic locales, how about a few travel tidbits from the audience today? Have you traveled somewhere and seen something that would make a great story detail? Or maybe you’ve researched and read a fact you’re dying to put into a book. If you’re more a homebody, tell us where you’d love to see a story set.

While you’re all thinking about what to share, I’m going to use some of that fresh fruit to create a smoothie bar for everyone to enjoy. I think a mango smoothie would take the heat out of the cassava dish I just bit into. See you at the smoothie bar!

When she wasn’t traveling to places like Brazil, Haiti, and China, Debbie Kaufman always found a good book to be a great escape. Originally a Kentucky girl, Debbie now lives in Georgia with her own romance hero, her husband of over thirty years. She has four children, three grandchildren, and two small house horses that pass themselves off as dogs. Her first novel is a Love Inspired Historical titled The Doctor’s Mission (Nov. 2011).


Today Debbie has generously offered to give two copies of The Doctor's Mission to two commenters. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.


  1. I went to China for a month and if I wrote contemporary I'd so be using the setting. But I don't. :( Not sure I have any desire to set a historical there.

    I'm glad you didn't give up on your setting. Sometimes we KNOW we just can't take particular advice because the book would die. One of my books I got a few "you can't have that POV" but if I didn't, there was no point in writing the book at all.

  2. Mangos!! Can't find those around here this time of the year. I'd love to try juicing them.

    I've never been outside the U.S. but if I could I'd go to Israel and then Ireland/Scotland.

    I'm reading The Doctor's Mission right now. I love the way you set your reader in Liberia.

    No need to enter me since I already have the book.



    Now you got us all anticipatory for a first sale story!

    Do tell!!

  4. Well, my personal preference is for books set in medieval Japan. I'm not giving up on at that setting.

    Admittedly, though, I'm studying first century India as well.

    I agree. The way the monkeys are used is wonderful.

    Please don't enter me as I already have the book (unless you'd be wiling to mail it to my Mom).

  5. Hi Debbie!

    What a great look into the research you do. I love missionary autobiographies, especially those from the early days of foreign missions. I have a copy of my step-grandfather's journey to the mission field in Nigeria with his first wife in the 1930's - a fascinating story, especially since I was privileged to be related to this wonderful man for the last ten years of his life.

    By setting your historicals in an exotic setting, you've given yourself a boatload of research. You must enjoy it! How do you discipline yourself to stop doing the research and start writing? At what point can you say "I have enough information"?

    Thanks for the beautiful spread - mangoes are my favorite, and, like Christina, I've been missing them.

    And I already have my copy of The Doctor's Mission, so don't put me in for the drawing.

  6. We eat mangos all the time! Our local Hispanic grocery stocks the littler ones from Northern Mexico... And guavas... And tunas (cactus fruit).

    I LOVE this book idea! One of my best friends stayed with a missionary couple in Liberia for her high school years. Does she have stories!!

    I went to graduate school on Warsaw, Poland and I've always wanted to write a book set around the conversion of the first Polish king. A small town, a momentous event that changed the landscape of Eastern Europe.

  7. What do all of you think is harder to do? Describe something that you have seen every day and grown up with or something new and different or that you have never really seen?

  8. Wow, what a terrific book. Jungle settings are not my usual fodder so this will be fun to read. Love the idea of a Pastor and a Doctor!
    And yes, tell us your call story, Debbie!!

  9. Hi Debbie...I would love to take a trip to Africa w/ you in your intriguing novel...thanks for the chance :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  10. I enjoyed your post today, thanks for sharing. I'm going to make sure my husband doesn't see it though in case I ever decide to tell him I need to go to Paris to research a book. JK!
    I'm impressed by all the research you've done, and your tips were very helpful.
    Jackie Layton

  11. Hi Debbie,

    Fabulous post and I'll definitely have to get a copy of The Doctor's Mission. You did a beautiful job capturing the flavor of Liberia.

    While my current works take place in the American West, I've always wanted to set a story in South Africa during the Zulu War or Boer Wars. I've done tons of research on that local during that time for non-fiction writing, but I haven't found the right characters yet for a historical romance. Someday I'll wake up with the hero and heroine telling me their story I'm sure.

    I just started plotting a story with a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. And I'm having to rely on many oral histories and books to take me into that location.

    Best of luck, and I'm glad you didn't give up on your setting you do such a nice job bringing it to life.


  12. Of course our SECOND favorite pick your brain question is to tell us about your writing day. Where do you write, and what is your schedule like.

    Mac or PC ? hehehe

  13. I'm in for the give away!!

    I thought about driving to Nashville. You know so I could describe the ride accurately. [Had nothing to do with the peeps at the other end I'd get to hang out with... Like the 2nd cousin I've never met...]

    But then Indianapolis worked out better.

    You know.

    Very exotic places.

    /roll eyes/

    If I could go anywhere, it would not be work today - 1/2 inch of snow and cold and I just wanna stay home. Oh well.

    But seriously, I'd like to explore Europe. I have one book set there actually - but book 5 of a series. Southern Switzerland near... Italy? Chopped off a corner to make my own country ;).

    But now I have to get ready to travel to that exotic local known as the Ozarks...

    carolmoncado at gmail dot com

  14. Debbie,

    Congratulations on your book. I think the local sounds wonderful and the prose you shared put me right in jungle with them!

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  15. Morning, Seekers. Thought I'd drop in before I go hit the gym this morning. The sedentary writing has taken its toll :)

    Melissa, I agree that a historical would be complicated--I'm in the process of researching one right now! Knowing the contemporary setting as I do is small help :) As to the POV issue, I've always found mystery author Allison Brennan to have a great take on POV. She uses multiples and breaks all the POV rules successfully.

  16. Christina: My heart does a little back flip every time someone says they are reading my book :)

    I've always wanted to do Scotland-my maiden name is Duncan! After I read author Anne Fraser's recent post on travel there, I think it is a must do. If you want to drool over the scenery: http://petitfoursandhottamales.com/2011/11/the-western-isles-of-scotland-with-author-anne-fraser/

  17. Morning, Tina. I'll try and share that after workout :)

    Walt, don't give up on that setting. Since I've read some of your stuff, I can say your use of setting is amazing! And, of course I'd ship to your mom!

  18. Oh, Jan, what a fantastic legacy to have. I am totally jealous and happy for you at the same time.

    Stopping the research can be hard when you're a research nerd like I am. What I made myself do was first immerse to get the feel of the place and then write. I often write and do this: Anna walked the solitary streets of Monrovia ***insert street light research here*** If I don't I never get anything done. And yes, I probably should research a bit less and write more :)

  19. Virginia, I'd love to talk to them. You could totally set a romance in Poland in that time period. The key is to invent the romance around the time period events. Give me a cool twist, and I'd read a book set there.

  20. Mary, it's equally difficult because we take the things we know for granted. I always feel too detailed when I describe contemporary stuff. On the other hand, I had to piece together a lot of research to describe the inside of a Liberian hut in the region I used. One hut does not fit all, LOL!

    Jo, I grew up on Tarzan movies, The African Queen, etc. :)

    Karen, I hope you get a chance to do just that!

  21. Jackie, some travel is absolutely necessary. Although I didn't get to Liberia, since book two involves a mining engineer, I did take a tax deductible trip to Dahlonega, GA for all the mining background and expertise.

  22. Kirsten: I find the Boer Wars fascinating and had been looking at them too. Once those characters speak to you, go for it!

    Oral histories are so valuable. My critique partner just finished a book that she based on her mother's oral history of growing up in an orphanage out west during WWII.

  23. Carol, that drive was totally important. A friend of mine stopped reading a book after the author made several major mistakes about the journey through the city where she used to live!

    And, while I love exotic settings, just put me well into your setting and I'm happy. Indianapolis, Hmmm. Going to be there in a couple of weeks, but just for a day. The Ozarks are interesting, one of my Petit Four and Hot Tamale blog sisters, Carol Burnside/Annie Rayburn lives there.

  24. Of course now the third question is what are you working on???

  25. Thanks, Ross.

    Now, for one of Tina's questions: I am a PC, but my older son is trying to convert me to a MAC. If I can buy a used one, he just might be successful.

    I write better in the mornings and till about 2:00 p.m. I also take a trip 3-4 times a year with a couple of other authors (Susan Carlisle and Sandra Elzie) to one's lake cabin and we write from 6-6, BICHOK. Wish I could do it all the time.

    My biggest problem is trying to keep the home distractions at bay and teach folks that just because I'm home doesn't mean I'm free to play/babysit/help you with whatever.

  26. Welcome to Seekerville, Debbie! Congratulations on your debut!! I found your post fascinating. From your excerpts I see how seamlessly you melded setting and story. I like the variety of settings Love Inspired Historical is publishing.

    Thanks for the smoothie! Will try the goat soup...eventually. :-)


  27. I lived several years in Japan between 1959 & 1963. I experienced something firsthand as an American on the streets of Tokyo during a Red Alert. A Red Alert was when the Communists were active on the streets. We were with a Japanese friend and he ushered us through businesses, down back alleys, etc. until he got us to his home. I hadn't really thought about that event until reading your blog today. It could be a gem or germ of an idea to investigate further.

    Would love to be entered to win Debbie's book.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  28. Tina, my trip North (Cincinnati for 8 days followed by Louisville and Indianapolis) is almost all medical. I have a granddaughter who was born with a rare version of a rarely seen condition and she is being seen at the children's hospital in Cincinnati with a later consult in Indianapolis. If you are interested, her mother set up a FB page for her: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mackenzies-cure/150033271691910
    Since I'm not needed on a daily basis, I'm locking myself in the hotel room to finish book two, also set in Liberia and maybe indulge in a little research on three, set in China.
    I did think about using my time there to research Cincinnati, etc as a setting, but I've just got to finish the revisions on book two before I think too hard in another direction! Tempting, though. Instead, I'll settle for seeing some old friends from Louisville, where I was born and raised.

  29. Hi Janet! I'm pretty sure the Goat soup is an acquired taste, LOL! The smoothies are the easy way to slip into native Liberian food stuffs.

    I'm with you on the setting variety. I'm glad LIH is still keeping the balance with the Westerns/American settings, but the new Regencies, Nazi Germany, ancient Rome, I just love! Can't wait to see what else they come up with soon!

  30. Cindy, from that small gem and your experiences there, you may have the basis for a great historical romance adventure!

  31. Debbie, great to see you here! Thanks for a terrific post and congratulations on the release of your book! I enjoyed it!


  32. Thanks, Kelly. Hope to see you again soon. Silken Sands conference perhaps?

  33. Absolutely have to sneak out to the gym now! I'll be back soon :)

  34. Hi, Debbie! I just received your book in the mail last week and can't wait to read. I'm finishing Debby Giusti's The Captain's Mission (fabulous, by the way) and look forward to diving into your debut book next.

    It was wonderful seeing you at Southern Magic's luncheon!

  35. Debbie, what a fun post. I loed reading the many ways to do research when you can't go to a locale. Great ideas.

    I went to the Philippines some years back. One specialty there is balut--raw duck eggs. Also, mango smoothies are popular there. Also, when there, we traveled to another island. The way we got from the dock to the catamaran-type boat was to "walk the plank." A narrow plank of wood propped between dock and boat. Some men held rough wooden round railings to hold onto. Fond memories. :)

    I don't have time to read everyone's comments right now, but I look forward to reading later in the day. :) Looking forward to reading everyone's comments!

  36. Welcome to Seekerville Debbie and congratulations on your debut novel. It sounds fascinating. Since I'm a Seeker and can't win it, I will have to make a trip to the store. smile

    And you do know what Seekers love. A feast. Wow, goat soup and hot spicy food. I'm in.

    I've traveled a lot in South America and even have some manuscripts dusting my shelves that are set there. Better get them out and take a peek.

  37. Is Canada exotic?

    I should think: YES.

    Debbie, this sounds amazing and I love the immersion into different culture/space/time/customs.

    What a wonderful, marvelous idea!

    Thanks so much for being here today, and congrats on a beautiful book with warm significance.

  38. Debbie, Congratulations on your book! After reading the excerpts I know I want to read that book. Thank you for the tips. Research is something I like to do. I enjoyed the the outside work that went into my wagon train manuscript. Only I'm easily sidetracked when I find an autobiography or journal from the era I'm writing on.

  39. You can send over a mango smoothie with a dash of honey.

    I've been fleshing out a Love Inspired Contemporary located on the Caribbean Island of Dominica. The story revolves around an American Medical student and first family Dominican centered in a lush tropical paradise.

    I saw your book with its lovely cover on the shelves of the local bookstore next to Ruth Logan Herne's, "Yuletide Hearts". I am glad you broke the boundaries for Love Inspired, yielding to exotic locales. The world is a smaller place.

    The historical detail you mentioned in your writing is important. For Walt, the lover of medieval Japan, there is a Warlord's Palace near Kobe. The wood floors of the palace were specially designed to creak like a nightengale when walked over to wake the warlord in case of assassins.
    I would love to have your book, "The Doctor's Mission".

    You mentioned having future novels set in China. What time period, and how will you evolve your characters?

  40. DEBBIE SAID: "How ever would I explain cannibals in kilts?"

    LOL, DEB, WONDERFUL blog today and The Doctor's Mission sounds like a WONDERFUL book!!

    Welcome to Seekerville, and the number one reason exotic destinations scare me is because you DO have to do a mountain of research to get it right, which always makes me tremble in my boots. But if you love research, I bet writing a book like this is an absolute blast, learning new things, new cultures and exploring far corners of our globe.

    I am SO proud of LI for expanding its horizons -- that is REALLY exciting!!


  41. I am so jealous. Writer's retreat!!

    I vote for a Seekers retreat.

    Next time it comes to Denver.

    Tina Radcliffe

  42. Debbie

    Congratulations on your debut! May would say, "Pawsome!"

    One of my all time fave film lines: "You're a lot of trouble, Mrs. Pedecaris."

    Really, I loved everything about the film.

    Our debut came out at the tail end of June so we're busy working on the sequel, which is set in today's Paris.

    I've been to Paris which helps (only for 4 days but we stayed with friends who lived there), but not to the area that is a major part of my setting.

    We need a Paris cemetery. :)

    Now that I know how amazing they are, I wish we'd have gone.

    You're correct on the plethora of info available online (and at the library). However, to get all senses included, I needed someone who'd been there. Lo and behold, there are a few websites, entirely devoted to them!

    I asked one of the people if he'd be willing to answer some questions and he has been quite willing to do so.

    I also asked friends/family about films that might give me more insight to the area and watched several (some I liked much better than others, wshew).

    And those amazing maps. I found the cemetery located closest to the American Embassy and was able to get a view of the outside, and WOW - across the street is a little park with a nice statue of - who else? - Benjamin Franklin. How COOL is that?

    This is now worked in to the story. Wouldn't have known it otherwise!

    Thank you for your examples - just the right dab of info to give me the feel, without being distracting. Also, well done trailblazing for others. Readers of this line will be most appreciative!

    Friends of Seekerville are known for this... (Hi Melanie!)

    Would love to win your debut! may at maythek9spy dot com

  43. Ruthy, the only time Canada is considered exotic is if you are visiting the HQ Toronto offices. Nice try.

    Tina Radcliffe

  44. Puppies in Paris, KC? OMG I love this!

    Tina Radcliffe

  45. Ha Tina...

    It gets better....


    She teams up with a feral cat who lives in that cemetery....


  46. I admire authors who can dive into a pile of research and then write a story that I feel like I'm there.

    I'm not one of those but I enjoy reading them.

    An exotic setting for me is anywhere over 60 mile radius from my home.

  47. Hi Debbie,
    Your's was the first Inspirational book I've read. Happy to say I'll be reading more. Have Debby G's. on my nightstand now.
    You do such a wonderful job with setting, I feel as if I'm taking the journey with your William & Mary.
    My exoctic locations are Greece, Hawaii and US Virgin Islands. Guess I love the islands.
    Glad your having a great release month.

    Sia Huff

  48. Hi Debbie! I'm curious if you've ever been to Liberia, and if that is why you were inspired to set your story there.

    My husband and I visited New Orleans two years ago for a week and we were both so inspired! The city is so rich in history and atmosphere. We also visited Oak Alley plantation, which just may have to be a setting in one of my novels someday. I remember our guide telling us about a "courting mirror," which was actually a mirror with a fishbowl-type curve to it. It let whoever was chaperoning a couple keep an eye on them, because the curve of the mirror let them see everything that was happening in the room. That may make it into a murder mystery someday, with a clue being spotted in the old courting mirror...

    I'd love to read this book, so please include me in the drawing!

    stephludwig at hotmail dot com

  49. I'm glad you stuck to your guns, Debbie!

  50. I love reading all these places Seekers and friends have been! And I agree with Ruthy, Canada is totally exotic. As soon as you cross the border into a town, there's a whole new feel to things. International, exotic! I've always wanted to visit Quebec because the Candian French is so funny sounding compared to the French I learned in France in high school.

    I write from 10 to 1 or 2AM. Usually I can get the littlies to sleep until 7 or so. I can't get anyone to NOT come in for play/help/babysitting, either, Debbie!

    PC. An old one. I give it a hug and a kiss every time I start it up. Like an old car, it runs on LOVE and mutual admiration.

  51. Hi Callie: Good to see you too! I love it anytime I can sneak over to Southern Magic!

    I too am a big Debby Giusti fan. I adored her medical suspense and didn't think she could top them until I started the military series and found I was sooo wrong :)

  52. Hi Jeanne! I've never been to the Phillipines, but isn't it funny the thinbgs that stick with us? Raw duck eggs??? When I used to travel to China back in the 90's for adoption work, I learned to stop asking what I was eating, LOL!

  53. Oh, Sandra, I both love and am scared by South America! I've been to Brazil and found it fascinating, but the adoption horror stories put me off wanting to work there. Still, I'd love to read a good South American story.

  54. Ruth, no matter what Tina says, I kinda think Canada is exotic. Of course, I live in Georgia, so that may colorr my perception of all that wintery atmosphere.

  55. Thanks, Julie! I have your A Passion Most Pure sitting on my shelf right beside me! I'll try not to go all fan girl :)

    I'm not sure our research situations are too vastly different. Yours is just a little more accessible!

  56. Great interview Debbie! Your novel sounds compelling!

  57. Hi Jamie: Wagon trains fascinate me. I used to sit and watch TV westerns with my Dad, one of my fondest memories. One way to rein in the research is to balance it with word count. Lately I dodn't let myself read more unless I've hit my count for the day.

  58. Elizabeth, all the LIH authors have been blessed with some fantastic covers. I just saw Ruth's in Walmart too!

    As to China stories, I'm sticking to my missionaries and trying to decide between a couple of different periods. I have to make up my mind soon since we're taking the youngest daughter back to China this summer. As soon as I determine my locale, I'll be able to plan a side trip there.

  59. Tina, if you guys have a retreat, I wanna be an honorary Seeker and go too! I can pack pretty fast when writing retreats are mentioned. The Petit Fours try to do them too, but it is hard to get more than 2-4 people whose schedules mesh.

  60. KC and May, congrats on the debut! I found websites to tell me about what certain foods tasted like, etc. And, I have a cemetary fascination. Don't get me started...

    Oh, and who couldn't love Sean Connery in just about anything? Still, I've watche that move a couple of times- something I rarely ever do :)

  61. Connie, I feel the same way about police procedurals and legal thrillers. Admire the research it takes, but would rather just read the book.

  62. Sia, I'm so honored that I was your first inspy! Hopefully not your last, LOL! I love those island areas. I want to go there and just soak up the atmosphere.

  63. Hi, Debbie!!! (Waving madly back at you and grinning) Your book looks wonderful! I wish you all the best with it. And with all your future books and everything going on with you. You've had an interesting life, and I think that helps an author write interesting stories. Keep it up!!!

  64. Hello Debbie,
    I thought my hometown White Rock in British Columbia Canada would be a fun setting to have in a series. It is on the US border, on the Ocean and is only 2 miles square.

    Please enter me in your draw.

  65. Hi Stephanie. I've never been to Liberia or anywhere in Africa...yet! Not counting the Carribean cruise destinations, I have been to Brazil, the British Hong Kong, Haiti, and China (4 times. I want to go so many places, and always find them an inspiration. Reading my son-in-law's great uncle, H. B. Garlock's missionary accoutn of his time in Liberia was the original inspiration. After I read a few others, I was totoally hooked.

  66. Me, too, Sherri!

    Virginia, I think some towns just have more atmosphere than others. Sounds like that one begs to be a setting. :)

    Thanks, Eva!

  67. Waving right back, at you, Melanie. Had so much fun meeting you at the Heart of Dixie readers' luncheon. I'm such a fan our your books :) Yep, that's one of the things I love about being an author, you get to reuse all those interesting life tidbits!

  68. Well, Deb, yours wasn't my first inspy, but you are one of the best. You have a great way with words.

    I'll take the mango shake, but you can keep your goat soup. Sorry, I don't do unusual foods or hot & spicy foods.

  69. Some would say the Appalachians are exotic. ;) At least some of the back mountain people can be considered the natives of the area. LOL While it isn't over seas in any far off land, I have considered writing a book set in this area. It is a beautiful area surrounded by wonderful people. :)

  70. Mary, if it's historic, I don't think the setting is as difficult because no one was around to see it. So we're all coming from the same "page" in how it's portrayed.

    In contemps, I think it's easier if you know the site. I think it usually comes off as more real and inviting.

    But I love tripping off to visit areas where I'd like to set series and getting a 'feel for the folks, the landscape, the habits, the oddities.

    Which is why I love Southern fiction. You cannot get much more down home colloquial than that.

  71. Debbie, welcome!! I'm so excited to see you here today. Great advice!

    Thanks for bringing the yummy food. Now I'm craving tropical fruit!

  72. Debbie, thank you for taking my side about the obvious plethora of differentiated flora and fauna on either side of the Great Lakes.

    Teeeena is.... Well.... Silly.


    And from Georgia, the entire NORTH is exotic in certain respects. When I read Walt's Japanese settings, I'm literally shifted into a new, old dynamic. An, odd-funny kind of thing. Futuristic shifts me the other way, and it's fun to get a taste of both, isn't it?

    And I PAID Elizabeth to say she saw your book next to mine on the shelf..

    Uh, huh. Whatever it takes, darling!

    Dropping off Christmas kuchen, a cheese with pineapple variety and cheese with strawberry....

    Wonderful old world German food.


  73. What an interesting post!! Thanks for sharing.

    And The Doctor's Mission sounds SO good! Congrats on your debut release, Debbie.

  74. Oh, Debbie! Thank you for sharing. I wrote a short story a few years ago about St. Kilda, the Fairy Flag and MacLeod. Although I was born in the U.S. the area around Skye rings of home, if that makes any sense at all.


  76. I love it that LIH is expanding to new settings. I think it's a way to make a book an adventure beyond the story.

  77. Okay, I think Victoria BC and Newfoundland are exotic in a cool sorta way, but come on Canadian side of Niagara Falls?

    Tina Radcliffe

  78. Debbie, thanks so much for sharing your insights with us!

    Writers really have so much literally at their fingertips in this era, what with the vast selection of material available online. While researching a ms. I was working on this past year, I was amazed to discover so many complete research texts available online at Google Books!

    And what's nice is they're searchable, so you don't have to skim the whole thing when you only need one specific detail!

    I especially like the point you made about personal journals and first-person accounts. You learn so much more--and on a much deeper level--than you'd ever find in a dry book of facts.

  79. Cannibals in kilts.

    Vampire Amish.

    They're all great ideas.

    Canadians in grass skirts.

    Tina Radcliffe

  80. TINA!!! Your next series.
    Add Eskimos in bikinis and
    slap a stetson on a geisha and you've got an entire career rolling.

  81. Wonderful post! I have The Doctor's Mission sitting on my shelf at home :) I'm excited to read it. And I agree exotic locations are great, that's kinda of what made me pick it up at the store :)

  82. Joy, I love Appalachia. Allegany County NY is Northern Appalachia and travels right through Pennsylvania and down.... Amazing people. Amazing stories. I think I fell in love with mountain and hill regions when I first read Christy....

    Debbie, I love that we're sharing shelf space and my daughter just called from Walmart... a common occurrence in December! I told her to grab your book for me. Can't wait to read it.

  83. Congrats on the debut, Debbie. I can appreciate all the research you put into this book. Learning to cut off the research is an issue for me. I will study for hours and make no writing progress if I'm not careful.

    I have visited many mid-eastern countries. Perhaps Petra would be a setting I could consider, although there is an island in Australia that might call my name first. I am anxious to get back there. What a glorious excuse to take that 17 hr flight again! Researching a book. Hummmm...


  84. Sorry to be absent. Two hour round trip to pick up grandchild. Am now sitting at her piano lesson :)

    Mary, I might cede the cannibals in kilts but I've got zombie missionaries in the bag!

  85. Yes, I paid Sandy to say that. See Ruthie, I'm a quick learner:)

    Joy, Appalachia is such a strong culture that it practically qualifies as exotic. I mean who wasn't fascinated by Christy?

  86. Hi,Missy! I was trying to stick to the tropical fruit and then Ruth went and brought in the kuchen
    Not fair, but yummy :)

  87. Thanks, Pam!

    Yes, Christina, I feel some places can really resonate with us. I have strong reactions, both positive and negative, to physical places I've been.

  88. Myra, one other little research trick I use is to check out the Bibliographies of historical books. Often times I will find a great resource that the author used, but is helpful to me in an entirely different way. Besides, I like to get as close to an original as I can.

  89. Wow Debbie how exciting your life has been, I will be looking for this book.
    I too grew up in Ky and live in Ga, small world huh?
    thanks for sharing so much background on your book.
    Now to check out those tables laden with goodies.
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

  90. Hi, Sorry to come late to the party.

    I lived in London for almost a quarter while in college. The thing is, that was a long time ago, so if I were to write about it, I would need to go back.

    I'm willing to make the sacrifice!

    Maybe I could just get an update Online, like Nora Roberts talks about. I can't imagine that would be enough.

    I'd love to win a book.

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  91. Faye, hope you enjoy it.

    Ruth , I buy all four every month. Unfortunately, I've fallen behind in my reading.

  92. Lyndee said, "What a glorious excuse to take that 17 hr flight again! Researching a book. Hummmm..."

    Um, yeah, Petra sounds cool, but I'm not looking forward to such a long flight again when I head to China this summer. After about 8 hours, I am so done.

  93. Hey Paula! Definitely a small world. Although I grew up in Louisville, I aslo spent my summers in Nicholasville and two adult years in Bardstown. Where are you from in KY?

  94. Cathy, my momma used to say "Better late than never." I originally planned to write a contemporary set in China, but the years passed and the country has changed so much that little to none of what I know would still be valid.

  95. Thanks for the tips on where to find accurate information about an area. My current WIP is set in the Black Sea area of the Ukraine, so I'm going to put your suggestions to use and see what I can come up with.

    I'm really glad you didn't give up your original setting too. I love coming across a book that's set someplace original and exotic.

  96. Small world, Debbie! We lived in Nicholasville for five years - our best friends still live there :)

  97. Debbie - what part of the Ozarks?! In the [general] Springfield area here :). Always love meeting new writers and now that we have an ACFW group, I get to meet more :D.

    [So... Seeker/Seeker friends... you have a standing invite to come see us if you're in the area!]

    I know enough about the drive to Nashville to bluff my way through the parts I'd written [oh, look, windy hilly road...] and knew better than to talk about specifics in Nashville unless I was there to see it or run it by a Nashvillian. I know enough about the drive to Indy to bluff it too [I've driven parts of it several times] and ditto the streets...

    Sadly, not real exotic. Maybe that Swiss trip will happen one of these decades... because that's how long it'll take to get that series published... ;)

  98. Your book sounds great, Debbie! I love The Wind and the Lion!! The other movies you mentioned are also great. I'm looking forward to reading your book!

    I've never been anywhere exotic, unless Louisiana counts as exotic. Haha.


  99. Louisiana sounds exotic to me, Whitney.

    Tina Radcliffe

  100. Happy hunting, Marcy!

    Jan, my dear Aunt lived there for many years.

    Carol, Im not exactly sure where she is. You can find her through the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales website.

  101. Whitney, some parts certainly do count!

  102. Whitney, some parts certainly do count!

  103. Excellent post, Debbie. I envy your patience with research. I've also heard the details you put in your book have to be believable, even if you know they're true. If people wouldn't buy it, don't use it.

    This post is going in my keeper file! Thanks.

  104. I'm really happy to see this setting! Thanks Debbie. And I didn't know it was out in the stores now.

    (just watch, there will be a fantasy book written now with cannibals in kilts. We all laughed about Amish vampires once, too)

  105. I think getting the setting right, especially touch and sound and SMELL would be hard in a place you haven't visited. I assume you haven't visited Liberia before?

    I think it's neat that this particular line (drawing a blank on the name--oh come on!) is branching out to different settings. Makes for some interesting books. :)

  106. Hi, Debbie!

    So sorry I missed you today. My little guy spent hours at the dentist today. Everything went great, thankfully, but I haven't been on-line long enough to read your post. I'll come back and read it tomorrow. I hate missing my daily Seekerville!

    Blessings, Linnette

  107. Loves 2 Read Romance - LauraDecember 6, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    I have been to Canada and a few of the United States. You are right when you talk about the scents and sounds taking your reader to the location. I have read books set in England, Ireland, Germany etc and the descriptions used really help me imagine being there. I am glad that you didn't give in and change your location. I can't wait to read The Doctor's Mission!!


  108. Good point, Linsey! Thanks for stopping by.

    Debra, all I can say about that is I better make the dedication, LOL!

    Hey Casey: Love Inspired Historical from Harlequin. As to the sensory details, that's where first-person accounts come in so handy. Unfortunately, you have to read a lot of them to get the information cause each one had their own focus and some were more detail oriented.

  109. Oh, Linnette, I remember those days. My youngest, from China, paid the dentist's mortgage for quite a while. Without flouride in the water and because her mom probably had untreated fevers, we had seriously rotten teeth by age 2. Crowns, crowns, and more crowns.
    Thanks for coming by after such a long day.

  110. Laura, I think it must operate on the same principle where scent can take us right back to a strong memory.

  111. Well, Seekers, and especially Tina,thanks so much for having me today. It was always my dream to be a guest on Seekerville :) Sorry I didn't get to the call story, but my lids are way to heavy right now. So I'm headed to bed. Fortunately to a good old mattress version instead of the camp beds, wooden pallets with sticks for a pillow in the huts, or just a plain hard ground for a resting spot that I force my characters to endure. I'll check back in the morning in case someone else had a question for me. Night all, and someone refrigerate any of those leftovers, will ya? Ruth's kuchen is going home with me

  112. Interesting post, Debbie. Thanks for sharing. Love the cover of your book.

    I'm glad publishers are accepting different locales now. Being from Canada, I've always been told not to set my stories there because there's not a lot of interest in settings other than the US or England, maybe France. So it's great to see something to exotic as Africa!

    Thanks for all the good wishes for our kitty. He's home which is amazing because I thought we'd have to put him down. But it's still serious. An anal gland absess (sp?) which is painful and will take a while to heal. Having a bit of a hard time getting the antibiotics into him. But he's starting to come around. Prayers were heard!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  113. What a great post! I plan to keep all of your information. I learned so much. I went on a mission trip to Quito, Ecuador this summer on a mission trip. I took a lot of detailed notes while I was there and I hope to get a chance to use it in a future story. Next year I go to Panama. Yeah! More information I love it.
    Glenda Parker

  114. Debbie,
    I love mango. I have a great recipe for Mango soup. I also love to travel. Malta is one of the more unusual places I've visited. It would make a great place for a mystery.

    Susan Carlisle

  115. Thank you so much for this post. What an inspiration.

    Ginger in AL
    ginger dot solomon at gmail dot com