When Setting Drives a Book — Guest Post By C. Hope Clark

2014-06-13 16.56.43Place holds serious importance to me. Where my feet get dirty and my roots sink in define me. Might be the result of my heritage. Being from the Southeastern United States, home is something you embrace, cultivate, and. as we all know from a certain war in the past, fight for.

Place can also be where we go to heal. We seek retreats, vacations, or cruises to escape and reacquaint ourselves with our inner being. As we all know, location has a way of altering our disposition. We leave our normal environment when we feel the need to make changes in ourselves. Setting can depress or uplift, soothe or tear asunder. It’s powerful.

When my editor suggested I write a new series, I froze, feeling completely inept at leaving a world I’d built over the course of three mysteries. My previous collection placed each book in a different rural locale in South Carolina. Now the editor wanted one setting for an entire series. I could still place it in South Carolina, but where?

Wherever you want, they said; just make it somewhat romantic in nature, which to them meant marketable. A setting that catches the eye on the shelf, and captures the attention of a group of people who enjoy most books from that place. Charleston maybe?

No, I replied. Not Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach, either. In my speaking engagements across the country, everyone seemed to think of South Carolina only in terms of those cities. Or Fort Jackson where every US Army enlistee has at one time set foot.

Then it hit me. Edisto Beach. A place where I go whenever I have the chance. It’s where I decompress, laugh, and enjoy just being myself. The pace is slower. The nature spectacular with palmetto fronds clicking in the breeze, live oaks dangling Spanish moss, snow white egrets hunting along the marsh’s edge for crab and other water denizen. Where dolphin play up close and personal, and the occasional shark lets you know who’s boss. Whitetail deer, raccoon, and maybe an alligator. With sunsets that melt into the marsh horizon, making the undulating grass seem to catch fire in the oranges and yellows reflecting off the briny water.

Or you could sit on the sand and just watch the waves.

My protagonist needed to be steeped in law enforcement, they said. No amateur sleuth. And give her the typical Southern family with issues.

You can take it from there.

And I took it and ran.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Since setting came to me so loud and clear, I was determined to weave it into my main character’s life until they were inseparable. But like any two strong characters, first they had to do battle.

Callie Jean Morgan had Edisto Beach forced upon her. When her father presented her with a deed and the keys to the family beach house in a genuine effort to provide her with a getaway to heal, Callie balked.  She wanted to decide where to live, not her parents who she was moving away from.

Once saving grace made her accept the keys. Her childhood mentor was at Edisto, someone who understood her from the time she was ten and vacationed at the beach. Maybe he could help return her feet back under her as she continued her shattered life raising a son, without her husband. A husband who died based upon actions she made as a detective.

But her mentor is found murdered . . . when crime doesn’t happen at Edisto.

Soon her home is violated . . . when residents always leave their doors unlocked.

A crime spree builds in the secluded paradise . . . seemingly because she arrived.

As she struggles to collect her sanity from all that has damaged her . . . the local law enforcement questions her mental stability.

The harder she ignores her wounds and mistakes . . . the harder she tries to run away from law enforcement . . . the harder Edisto seems to grapple with her, to convince her otherwise.

beach grass .32 2With each step Callie takes, Edisto takes one beside her.

I fell more deeply in love with Edisto Beach as the story took shape. And I thought I knew the place.

My previous series is entitled The Carolina Slade Mysteries, after a tenacious protagonist. This series is The Edisto Island Mysteries, after a bold and spirited setting. From this point forward, I understand one thing about these new books . . . setting will indeed define the characters, and readers will want to see the place where Callie Jean Morgan fought the good fight, and ultimately found herself. Maybe because they would like to find themselves, too.

BIO: C. Hope Clark lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s not visiting Edisto Beach. She’s the author of The Carolina Slade and the Edisto Island Mysteries. When she’s not composing fiction, she’s editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. Life is good. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

© 2014 – 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *