I’ve always been a picky eater. I drove my mom crazy. I liked this, but not that. Battles over vegetables were epic. So it stands to reason that I’m picky about where I set my books. I have to like the place. Or have some feeling for it. It has to mean something to me.
When I was a kid, we went all over the West in a camper, staying in national parks and campgrounds, driving through small towns, seeing all the landmarks like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. I grew up in the West, and I love the West. I love the road. And because it’s my world, I set books in places I like to be. A lot of these places have long vistas under blue skies.
My latest Cyril Landry thriller, Spectre Black, takes place in southern New Mexico. Plenty of blue sky and long vistas. There’s one sequence on a long stretch of highway near the Mexican border that involves semi-trucks made near-invisible by cloaking technology. I’ll go into that in more detail in an upcoming post.
It’s not worth it to me to go to the inner city. I don’t understand the culture, and even writing about being hemmed in by tall buildings makes me nervous. Somewhere along the line I realized that if I want to write for joy, I could set my books where I wanted to set my books.
I spent one semester in the University of Arizona MFA program, having decided I didn’t want to be an opera singer after all. (Big cities, again, and late nights, and spending most of my time indoors. Nope.) The other students were younger than me. They wrote bleak stories. Angst. Misery. Ugly gray scenes. I think it might have been because that was what was popular. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t fit in. But I didn’t stop writing.
My suggestion to anyone wanting to write a book: find a setting you want to set a whole book in. If you like bleak, go bleak. If you like the high Sierras, write about it. So much goes in to the Salad Shooter of our brains to make a book, and setting is an important part of it. Write what you want. Write the characters you want and the place you want. Don’t try to emulate someone else in that regard. Write for your soul. You get to build the world, so enjoy it, whatever it is you choose.
Write what you want.