I have a problem. I can’t write about places I haven’t visited. No, don’t bother to look at a map. Blakely, NC, the small beach town where The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé takes place, does not exist. It’s made up of small southern towns I’ve visited over the years, especially the Crystal Coast area in North Carolina.
When it comes to non-fiction articles, I can write about just about anything, whether I’ve been there or not. I can call people, visit websites and do research so I can write 1,000 words about whatever it is. But to carry a book, I need to have a place in mind. I have to have been there.
I know writers who can take that same level of detailed research that I do for an article and write a book that sounds like they’ve lived there all their lives. Not me. I need to see a place, wander around, breathe the air, talk to the locals. Only then can I write about it.
Even having grown up in the Bay Area, when I sat down to write The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, due out early this summer, I had to visit the area. I had to see it through my characters’ eyes this time.
It’s important that I see it because to me location is a character in the book. Heiress wouldn’t have worked in New York. Would Luke Skywalker have saved the universe a long time ago if Tatooine looked like Hawaii? Doubt it. One of the reasons Casablanca is so good is because the location has it’s own personality that permeates the movie.
So, as you sit down to write, whether you need to see a place in person or you can get what you need through traditional research, make sure you give your setting its due.
And while you’re doing that, I think I’ll pack a bag. I feel a research trip coming on!