I’ve just returned from Bouchercon, the World Mystery Conference in Dallas, Texas. While there I danced the Cotton Eyed Joe on the same floor as Sandra Brown, saw James Patterson, enjoyed catching up with old friends, had tea presided over by Princess Diana’s chef, and sat on a panel called The Perfect Setting.
This is the second time I’ve been on a panel discussing setting. Conference planners putting me on a setting panel makes perfect sense to me. The New England setting of my Lobster Shack mystery series is specific. Say “New England” and we all picture Angela Lansbury riding a bike along the waterfront of Cabot Cove. We can see weathered buildings hung with colorful buoys, white churches with tall columns framed by oaks and maples ablaze with orange and garnet leaves. We can hear the ocean, seabirds, and laconic locals.
I always learn so much from panels and this one was no different. Our moderator, SJ Rozan, provided new insight by talking about the emotional setting of a book, the way the characters react to and interact with the physical location of a story. She pointed out that a setting has not just a physical dimension but also an emotional one. Think of visiting an ice cream parlor. Most of us have good memories of sharing this simple treat with parents or grandparents. This nostalgia is evoked by the setting.
Another thing I learned is that I envy authors who have maps and floor plans in their books. How I delight in seeing an artist’s vision of the setting of a book: Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings, Nether Monkslip in G. M. Malliet’s Max Tudor series, the Art Deco floor plan for one of the stately homes in Agatha Christie’s novels. When I was ten years old, I pondered for hours the floor plan of the train in Murder on the Orient Express.
One of my dreams is having a map in one of my books.
What settings do you enjoy in the books you read?