Settings – Why I’m Writing What I Know

Oh, dear. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

Write what you know.

I wrote magazine articles for a few years. All of it was what I knew. And it got to be boring. Very boring.

I think it was when I sat down to write the umpteenth derivative of the same basic topic that I decided I’d had enough. I needed more excitement. More creativity. And I’d had an idea for a historical romance bubbling around in my brain for who knows how long. OK – I know how long. About 10 years. So I  bit the bullet and started writing.

Thing is, for my premise to work, the story had to be set in England. I considered the possibility of moving the setting to America, but due to the very social mores that drove my plot, it absolutely would not work outside of Great Britain. So England it was.

And writing that novel was work, let me tell ya. Lots and lots of work.

Every time I wrote anything about the house, the yard, the streets, I had to do research. I researched blueprints and layouts of typical upperclass homes in the late 1900s. I scoured exterior and interior photos of residences, streets, and parks. I certainly didn’t want  my maid scurrying to the parlor, only to discover I’d placed it on the wrong floor. In the end, the book was a learning aspect in many ways, not the least of which was this – research is hard.

So when I got the idea for my second novel, I took the easy way out. I already knew the setting would be America, and I had a feeling the Midwest would be a more unique perspective, considering most mail order romances are set out west. The farm setting came about organically.

This is when the “cheating” began. My novel is set on a farm. Confession time. I live on a farm. In a farmhouse. Built in 1860.

Oh, glorious day, how easy it is to write the setting now! No more seeking out old photos of rooms and floor plans. I simply close my eyes and imagine myself stepping into my front hall. No more meticulous research to determine how far from the road a typical London residence is set. I already know my house is 600 feet from (what was then) the main highway.

Sure, my house has changed drastically in almost 150 years. The chimneys were cut off and abandoned in the attic 40 years ago, so I have no idea what the fireplaces looked like, but the farmhouses on each side of us are a young 120 years, and I have them for reference.

I know  most writers don’t have this luxury. To live in the very home in which their story is set. But I do, and I’m relishing every minute it of it.

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