07 March 2007

Um, Where?

I have heard that line more times than I can count, whenever I mention the setting of the first manuscript I wrote. And it wasn't just from family members wrapped up in their own lives or friends, who'd known me for years but were only mildly aware of my interest in historical fiction. When I began to query agents for the work, which is set in 13th century Islamic Spain, one of the more entertaining responses to email queries was something about Grenada (as in the Caribbean country), rather than Granada, (the old Islamic capital).

Of course, since I wrote the manuscript, I know why I chose the setting. Spain has a fascinating history and its turbulent times in the 13th century were perfect fodder for building a world of characters surrounded by intrigue. Granada has many relics of its Islamic past, including the Alhambra, which is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved monuments of the period. But sometimes in talking about this, I still get those blank stares and, "Um, where did you say this place is?"

What influenced each of you to choose the often exotic locales for your novels? Like me, was there something about the place and time that first sparked your interest? Do you find it harder to sell your work, because its setting or time is unfamiliar?

Happy writing, Lisa


jennifer said...

why? books i've read fiction and non fiction, places i've been, tv shows. I write a story until the story is told sometimes that's 10,000 words sometimes that 60,000 so if its something small that peaks my interest it might be a small story. I think the most unusual is there was a tv sho on vikings and they mentioned the varangian guard, vikings who served in the byzantium army. the next day i started a story.

I can't say as location has really been a problem in getting something accetped though.

carrie_lofty said...

One of my crit partners got upset because I didn't say where, exactly, Salzburg is. And I thought I shouldn't have to explain. I mean -- if you're reading the book and it's even vaguely interesting, how hard is it to go on Wikipedia and find a map?

That said, I think the willingness of a publisher or agent to accept a story set outside of England, etc. is down to the organization. Some are just more willing to take chances than others. And some books are worth the hassle of breaking readers out of their comfort zones (back to that good writing thing!).

Sandra Schwab said...

She didn't know where Salzburg is? She must have never seen The Sound of Music! *g*

For Castle of the Wolf, I chose the Black Forest for the setting because, well, when I was little my family used to live in the Black Forest. The deep, dark woods and old castles make it the perfect setting for a romance with gothic elements!

Tess said...

With the French Revolution, it was studying it in high school that first piqued my interest. Then I did my MA in that area - as I already knew French, it made my second-language requirement much easier and applicable.

And yeah, it's a harder sell. Where I used to get requests, I'm not any more and as I'm pretty certain my writing hasn't worsened, I'm figuring it must be the setting. But I soldier on, hoping that SOMEONE will look past the French connection and just read the story.

Mircalla said...

Is it really true that people do not know where places like Salzburg or Granada are? Maybe I am a bit Europe-centric, but I would have thought that these are V.I.Places. Alahmbra is Unesco world heritage, as well as the historical centre of Salzuburg