Today my special guest is Kathy Shuker, a Devon based author who writes intriguing mysteries with an evocative sense of place. Welcome to the Scribbling SeaSerpent, Kathy.
I’ve been writing novels now for around fifteen years. Most of the early ones never saw the light of day (fortunately) but three have been published and many readers have commented on their strong sense of place. It’s been a long learning curve and here I’ll try to share what I’ve learnt and how I approach the setting for a story - and why I think it’s important.
Writing a novel, I quickly found out, involves endless decision-making - there are so many different ways to tell a story. If you’re indecisive like me, it can slow you down; you become literally spoilt by the choice. And it’s all too easy to get wrapped up thinking of exciting plot details or complex characters and neglect the all-important background information. Along with the time period, the setting is fundamental to the atmosphere of the work. For example, if you want to tell a story that’s hard and fast and clean-edged, brisk with people and the insistent thrust of modern life, you would probably set it in a big city. If you want a moodier story with a haunting backdrop, you might choose something rural and remote. Again, there are many options. Whatever you choose, the setting is like another character in the story, something that has an essence of its own and, if it’s to play its full part, needs to be respected as such.
I write mysteries which are character-driven, stories that revolve around small communities, families with untold back stories, groups of old friends whose relationships have grown or stretched out of shape or have even broken down. I feel they suit intimate and sparsely populated settings. There’s time for the characters to interact; there’s space for the unusual, the surprising, the unspoken, all of which add to the mystery. I have spent most of my adult life living in rural areas so my choice of settings is not surprising: I know how small communities work; I breathe more easily in the countryside. And I think that’s an important factor in choosing a setting for a novel: you need to know and understand where the story takes place. It’s going to be a long writing journey and that setting is going to hold it all together. As the story unfolds, it will keep throwing questions at you - points of detail which, if you get them right, can help to make the story credible. If you get them wrong, the reader may pick up on the inconsistencies and be pulled out of the story.
Above all I think you should enjoy your setting, have fun with it, inhabit it for the duration. If you can believe in it yourself, your readers will too.
Kathy’s books are available in digital and print format on multiple platforms.
Kathy's Amazon Page
Kathy's Facebook Page