Saturday, October 1, 2011

Location, location, location

by Kathleen Ernst
(guest blogger)

Everyone who leaves a comment today will have a chance to win a free book.

One of the great joys of reading is “disappearing” into a book.  My favorite authors are adept at bringing a location to life in my imagination.

In my Chloe Ellefson series, the protagonist is a curator at a large historic site called Old World Wisconsin, where I used to work.  (That’s me churning butter, back in 1982.)

 As the series progresses, the setting will vary as Chloe visits different museums and historic sites.  In The Heirloom Murders, Chloe explores a Swiss community in southern Wisconsin.  An old farmstead cheese factory, now restored, is the setting for several key scenes.   

Because I write about real places, I try hard to be as authentic in my descriptions as possible.  Book 3 (coming 2012) is set on two islands in Lake Michigan, and will feature the restoration of an old lighthouse.  I’ve been a volunteer docent there, and know the site well. (See photo below)

Still, I made a point of visiting again during the first week in September, when the book is set.  I walked the ground covered in each scene, checking not just logistics but also what flowers were blooming, birds singing, etc.  I took lots of photos and my husband Scott took video.  When local residents read the book, I hope the setting will seem completely familiar.

I love it when readers tell me that after reading one of my books, they want to visit the places described.  Since distance makes that impossible for many people, Scott created Location Guides for the first two Chloe books.  They include photographs of key buildings and places that are described in the books.  When possible the Guides include historic images, as well.

You can check them out by following the links here:
Overall, reception to the Guides has been enthusiastic. One reader, though, said that after disappearing into Book 1 in the series, Old World Murder, she preferred to stick with the images created in her own imagination.

So, I’m curious.  As a reader, would you appreciate seeing photographs of the places in your favorite books?  Or would you prefer to conjure your own images, and stick with those?  I’d love to know what you think!   

I’m grateful to Poe’s Deadly Daughters  for allowing me to celebrate publication of The Heirloom Murders:  A Chloe Ellefson Mystery by guest-posting here.  And I’m grateful to readers!  I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you.  Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing for a free book.  The winner can choose any of my seventeen titles -- The Heirloom Murders, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel -- the choice will be yours!  To learn more, please visit my website,


Katreader said...

While I love reading about fictional places, or places I've never been, I always get a thrill when reading about a real location that I know! And it had better be accurate. LOL. I'd love to see pictures and video from a site in a book. Although I'm quite adept at the willing suspension of disbelief, I do like verisimilitude. I'm the type that if it doesn't match what I picture in my head-that's OK-I'll appreciate the reality-but stick with what I see in my head! I look forward to checking out your books!

Sheila Connolly said...

Welcome, Kathleen!

I know what you mean about authenticity, but I'd rather keep the images of places in my head. Same with book characters--I don't collect pictures of my characters (well, I do have a few of my fictional goats).

But only by being in a place do you catch all the minor but intriguing details--the way a cobweb blows in a draft, the way the light falls on the old wooden floor, the way children's voices echo through an old building. That's what makes the place come alive to readers.

Me, I'm off to Old Sturbridge Village today to watch cider pressing--with oxen!

Writer Lady said...

It's a lot more work to use authentic settings, but as a reader I love them. I couldn't possibly travel to all those places. A good writer pulls me into the place as well as the story.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Kat, I agree--I love to read about places I know, but it better ring true! I also enjoy visiting locations after I've read about them. Even if things look very different from my imaginings, the characters in my head bring the place to life.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Sheila, I know what you mean about characters. It's always distracting to get a description after I've formed my own image. I love those specific sensory details you mention. Sometimes it's the tiniest thing that brings a scene to life.

We'll have to get together sometime and talk about museums and murder!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Writer Lady - That's one of the joys of reading, isn't it? Armchair travel. Of course, picking a location I want to visit as setting for my next novel is pretty good too!

Barb Goffman said...

Kathleen, I'm on the fence about seeing photos of the real places, but I wanted to tell you how much I liked the male protagonist in your first book in this series. Can't wait to read the next one.

And Sheila, I used to go to Old Sturbridge Village each summer when I went to sleep-away camp in Connecticut. It was always so hot, my friends and I used to spend as much time as we could in the clock house, since it was air-conditioned. And Sturbridge was known for its great molasses cookies. Does it still have them?

Anonymous said...

I have read the second book in the series and enjoyed it even more than the first one. The setup for the third book makes me want to read that one too.

Since I live in Minnesota, the Wisconsin setting in the book makes it seem like home. The living museum setting of the book has put Old World Wisconsin on my list of places to visit.

I also did some research on the diamonds of Wisconsin. Who knew? I love learning about real places and events through books.

Thank you so much for your wonderful series.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I'm of course glad you are enjoying the series, but it also warms my heart to hear that one of my stories ends up prompting a visit to Old World. As the series progresses, I hope to get Chloe to historic sites around the Midwest and beyond.

Thanks for mentioning Roelke, my cop. I learned a lot from hanging out with a young officer in Eagle, the village near the site. Roelke has some things to learn, but he has a good heart.

Dru said...

Sometimes a little bit of both, especially if the location exist.

Susan D said...

If it's a real place, then yes, I'd like to see the pictures at the author's website. If based on a real place, I think I'd still like to see them.

But I guess I'd want to see it before I start to read it, so I won't get my own ideas and then have them distorted.

These books sound intriguing. I'm adding them to my (way long) list of books to find and read.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Good point about seeing the images up front. I love doing library programs, which let's me introduce the books to new readers. I generally don't look at an author's website until after reading a book, but maybe I should make a new habit!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Congratulations to Dru! I pulled your name for the book drawing.

Thanks one and all for visiting, and special thanks to Poe's Deadly Daughters for having me!