Saturday, June 15, 2013

Where Stories Take Place

Location, location, location! I don't know who first said that quote, but WHERE a story takes place plays a big role in telling that story. After all, you wouldn't write about a famous surfer and then make his address somewhere in, oh, let's say Iowa, and you wouldn't plop an 1880s cowboy in the middle of St. Croix. (Actually...that last one could be interesting.)

I got to thinking about the settings for my stories while writing Greetings From My Sandy Dreams, due out this month. Besides being my first "beach read," this book bears the distinction of being my first book set in the sunny state of Florida.

You might be rolling your eyes at that one, thinking, "That's not so remarkable." It is, when you consider the role the Sunshine State has played in my life, and after over 20 books, this is the first time it shows up as an address for my characters. After escaping Communism in Cuba in 1959, my parents settled in Miami. My mom returned to Cuba--briefly--in 1960 for my birth, and that was the last time she would ever see her parents. A month later, she returned with me to Florida, where we lived until my parents' divorce. Though my mom and I moved to New Jersey after that, I visited my dad and sister often in Miami.

Oddly enough, I've never used Florida as a setting before now. The people in Greetings From My Sandy Dreams call Sandpiper Beach their home, a fictional town based loosely on the real New Smyrna Beach, but located closer to Homestead.

Now, New Jersey, which was home to me for most of my life, has been  the setting for various books and short stories. Not only is Little Bay, the setting for my first published YA, The Ghost of Little Bay, a fictional town (based on a real town called Ocean Grove), but I even made it a fictional exit on the Garden State Parkway!

New Jersey figures, too, in Salsa Kiss, written under my pen name of Consuelo Vazquez. Daniel and Odalys and the rest of the characters lived in the real-life town of North Bergen, with much of the action taking place around Hudson County. Florida is mentioned, if not specifically showing up in scenes!

Glimmers of Heaven? Also Hudson County, New Jersey, though I'm not real specific as to what town is home to Hayley and Zach.

Then we head across the river to New York...that is, Long Island. Never specific here, either. All you know is the mischievous Suburban Vampires, Dylan, Jesse, and their friends all live somewhere in Nassau County.

In Sea Siren, you have to travel further to Suffolk County in Long Island. Then there's Leading Lady, which is mostly taking place in the burroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Then there's my Christian series. More Than Sparrows, The Christmas Waltz, and Forever in My Heart all take place in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Larkspur Valley, loosely based upon the actual town of Aliquippa, from where much of my husband's family hails. I love stories about small towns!

Then there are locations that are stars in their own right. I really enjoyed Montana as a setting for And Then Came You. Rumor Has It was the only time I used Vermont, but if figured quite a bit in the story. Maine was also very prominent in The Cop and the Mermaid. After visiting Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountains, I chose Tennessee--though I don't name a particular town, but the action takes place around that same area--as the location for 'Twas the Spy Before Christmas.

My husband and I love Greenville, South Carolina; we make sure to visit it as much as we can. It was also natural that it would be the town where Kara Childers, the heroine of Champagne Taste and her hero, Gil Parsons, have an address.
Our son, Joey, on a hike in NC
And despite having lived here for over six years now, I have yet to use North Carolina as a setting. A friend of mine was lamenting about that when I told her I'd used Tennessee. A pride North Carolinian, Leigh Ann asked me, "Well, what about North Carolina?"

I agree! North Carolina, with its beautiful and mysterious Blue Ridge Mountains, plus its rich history, easily lends itself as a romantic setting. So, okay, I'm in. At least we know where the next book takes place!

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