My special guest today is Ellora’s Cave author, Wylie Kinson. Wylie has a new release out today called Law of Averages. Her book has a gorgeous cover, as you can see, and features an English Rock Star.
Here’s the blurb:
Megan Frost, an up-and-coming restaurateur, knows everything there is to know about the culinary arts, but when it comes to pop culture, she’s been living under a rock. During a vacation to the sunny island of Bermuda, the yummiest dish she’s ever laid eyes on rolls that rock right off her.
British musician Gabriel Law, the famous Dark Angel of Rock, regrets putting his songwriting on the back burner. Tired and creatively simmered out, he retreats to the peace and solitude of Bermuda in order to cook up some original sounds for his new album. But when he finds a naked woman in his holiday cottage, he happily exchanges solitude for a sizzling duet.
The ingredients for a sexy, scorching relationship are in place, but the mix isn’t complete without a romantic legend, a mysterious taxi driver and a surprise symbol of destiny from the aquamarine sea…
Law of Averages is set in Bermuda, and today Wylie is talking about setting stories in exotic locations.
My novel, Law of Averages, is set on the semi-tropical island of Bermuda so I tried to spice the story up with some local flavour – hibiscus flowers, pink sand beaches, and mopeds. Using Bermuda was a no-brainer for me because though I’m currently sitting in Canada watching my spring tulips bloom, I spent seventeen warm wonderful years on the island.
That’s not to say all my books will be set there… Oh no! I intend taking my characters, and readers, all over the world.
I love to travel, even if it’s only vicariously through the adventures of the heroes and heroines in the books I read. I’ve been all over the world: British occupied India in 1857 (The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran), 1930’s Japan (Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden), 15th century Florence (Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant), and Cape Breton Island, Canada (Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald). These authors did an amazing job of transporting me to times and places with their descriptive imagery. I was seeing, smelling and tasting worlds I could never personally experience.
I understand that an author can’t always visit the places her characters go, and I’m all for creative license, but a little research and a few authentic details can make the flavour of your book much richer. Here are a few tips on achieving just that…
The web, of course, will offer the easiest and quickest source of information. Wikipedia is a good place to start for a general overview, geography and a crash-course in history.
Most major tourist destinations will have some sort of department of tourism or tourism authority with a website. From there, you’ll be able to find links to cultural, activities, hotels, shopping, and sometimes, depending on the location, a brief historical overview.
If you’re looking for specific information, try calling the tourism authority directly, or if that fails, pick a hotel and call the concierge or guest services desk, or a museum or library in that area. Explain your situation — you’re a writer looking for information on XYZ (they are often very busy, so you may have to ask for a convenient, quiet time to call back).
Speaking from experience, these people LOVE to talk about what they know best - their locale, their home, their area of expertise. Exchange emails if you can. You may have made a new best friend
If you’re like me, you belong to too many writers loops to count. Use them. A call to action asking if anyone in loop-land has either visited or lived in the destination you want to write about. First hand experience is invaluable.
Books! Check out your local bookstore or library for a copy of Lonely Planet or Fodor’s. They are a wealth of information, from climate to local customs.
Find out how long a flight takes to Rome or Bora Bora and let your heroine’s TSTL moment come as a result of jetlag. This is a small detail, but if the place you’re writing about isn’t well-known, it helps the reader get a sense of where in the world you are. Mentioning a plane change in London before the 10 hour leg to the Seychelles will give your reader something to cling to. A sense that you’re character is far from anything that resembles home.
You can find climate data, average temps for different times of year etc, on the web. Use your hero/heroine’s wardrobe choices to convey the environment.
Unless you’ve actually visited a place and can describe it in intimate detail, a good mix of generic and imagination is your best bet.
Take Bermuda for example ~ They don’t have a Hilton or Marriott so I would visit a few hotel or guest house websites, get a feel for what they look and feel like, then come up with a hybrid of my own. Use local architecture to boost the imagery of the locale - for instance, the pastel colored homes with white roofs would describe Bermuda, while terra cotta tiles would immediately bring Italy to mind.
This is a tough one to fake, so unless you’ve experienced it, stay away from too much detail. Food is a simple tool that manages to capture the essence of a place, so look up some recipes and go from there. Who can’t relate to food?
Most places have a few distinguishing features. Bermuda has the mythical triangle, Bermuda shorts and pink sand.
If I say volcanoes, colourful flowers and luau, you think Hawaii, right?
That was too easy…
The Spanish Steps, seven hills, Trevi Fountain…
If you just got a craving for pizza, your mind was on Rome.
How about Indian Ocean, flattest country in the world, lagoons?
Full points if you got the Maldives!
Find out what unique offerings your locale has to offer and work them into the story. I leave you with a few websites, good examples of what to look for when doing your research: