I have a love of all things Scottish, and when I thought of my favorite settings, Scotland was the first image to pop into my mind. I’ve set several of my manuscripts there and never fail to sigh over the stark beauty of the Highlands.
But I didn’t stop at my first thought. I dug a little deeper, asking myself if there was a common thread between the varied locations I’ve chosen to set my stories and scenes. And there was, sort of. The common thread turned out to be contrast. Familiar, comforting places that are invaded by danger, ordinary grass and trees that mask cliffs and bogs, a garden or park that changes into a deadly arena for demon battles at nightfall.
I’ve had some fun with this. I once wrote a fight scene that took place in the vegetable aisle at a grocery store. Why? Because grocery shopping is a familiar, almost thoughtless task. People do it on auto-pilot. They aren’t expecting to fend off demons at the Safeway. In one of my scenes in DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, the setting is an ordinary city street just before dawn, and the risk comes from two McDonald’s employees armed with cups of coffee.
Seriously, though, my favorite settings depict dramatic contrast—from a scene that takes place in a calm blue oasis on the coldest, driest continent on Earth to a confrontation with evil that takes place in a schoolyard surrounded by parents in parked minivans. Contrast keeps my characters off-balance, and I think that’s a good thing.
When reading a book, what do you enjoy most—visiting new and exotic locales, or walking along real streets and into places you’ve actually been?