I’m taking a break from my hiatus (does that make any sense at all?) to assemble this guest post. Meet Marcelle Dubé, a debut author who writes from a truly exotic place–the Yukon. Here in the Southern United States, we like to compare the Yukon to impossibly faraway places, like Siberia or Timbuktu. But Marcelle actually lives there! We wonder if we seem so far away to her. Here she is, writing about how important setting is to in the fiction she reads–and writes.
A rose is still a rose, but there’s only one Yukon
by Marcelle Dubé
Hi everyone and thanks, Tia, for inviting me to your blog!
For those of you who don’t know me – which would be most of you, I suspect – my name is Marcelle Dubé and I write mystery/suspense and fantasy. Carina Press just published my first novella, On Her Trail, a romantic suspense with ghosts.
I set On Her Trail in the Yukon, where I live. I wonder if that’s the norm, if most writers, especially at the beginning of their careers, choose to write about where they live. After all, it’s the place they know and love best. And, let’s face it, there’s a certain comfort level in knowing the place you’re writing about!
I always notice setting in stories. Or rather, I notice its absence. I like to feel grounded in the story, to be able to “see” where all the action takes place. That doesn’t mean I need gobs of description – a few well-chosen words will bring me right into the room, the city, or the country. And setting, when done well, becomes an integral part of the story – “place” becomes “character.”
Take Dave Robicheaux, James Lee Burke’s detective. Dave lives in New Iberia, Louisiana and his love for his home is as much a part of the story as are the murders he investigates. Burke’s books wouldn’t be as wonderful without the humidity and heat that roll off each page. Louise Penny’s Three Pines, in rural Quebec, is so well imagined that I want to move there, or at least visit the book store and enjoy a café au lait with Inspector Gamache in the café next door. Ken Bruen’s mean and gritty Galway helps make Jack Taylor the man he is in The Guards (the only one of Bruen’s novels I’ve read to date, but it won’t be the last!).
Setting matters to me and I believe it matters to most readers, even if only subconsciously. It’s the foundation of the story; it grounds the reader and lets her concentrate on the story.
So it’s no surprise that I find myself using the Yukon – or at least, the North – as setting for a few of my stories. It’s a pretty fabulous place. In case you’re as geographically-challenged as I am, the Yukon is in northern Canada, north of British Columbia and right next door to Alaska.
Still can’t place it?
Yeah. I know. Most people have a nebulous idea at best about northern Canada.
To be honest, I worried that setting On Her Trail in the Yukon might limit its chances at publication. Nobody seems to know where it is and much as I love the place, it doesn’t feel exotic to me. Home is never exotic, right?
But for me, the Yukon setting was as important as Fay or Lauren, the mother and daughter in my story. These two women belonged on the cliffs above the Yukon River.
What I’ve learned, however, is that readers are curious. They love to find out about a new place and the people who live there. And to them, the Yukon is exotic!
What about you? Does setting matter in the fiction you read? In the stories you write? Do you always set your stories in familiar places or do you do a lot of research? How important is setting in your choice of which book to buy?
I’d love to hear about the books you would recommend for their strong settings (and good stories, of course!). I’ll be around all day, if anyone wants to chat. Looking forward to what you have to say.