Edith here, north of Boston. And yes, it’s full winter.
I’ve been spending the month of January in frigid northeastern Massachusetts. You might think this blog is going to be about wishing I was on a sunny tropical island, like a couple of people I know (ahem, Barb Ross and Liz Mugavero). But it isn’t.
For the first half of January I was writing about an unusually warm and dry late May in northeastern Massachusetts for Mulch Ado About Murder. That’s not so odd. Authors’ deadlines often require us to write in seasons that don’t match the season when the story takes place, and sometimes to write about places where we don’t live.
For the second half of the month I’ve been immersed in February in southern Indiana during an exceptionally cold winter, polishing When the Grits Hit the Fan. And soon I’ll be back in a steamy 1888 July putting in editorial comments on Called to Justice (and after that returning to the first draft of Mulch, too). It’s enough to give an author whiplash.
People often ask me which of my series is my favorite. And my answer, to copy what my author pal Holly Robinson says, is, “the one I’ve been working on most recently.” How can I choose? I picked, or rather, created each of my settings and story premises because I like spending time there. When I’m on the farm with Cam Flaherty, her chickens, and her locavores, I’m happy digging in the dirt and digging up dirt right along with her.
When I’m flipping pancakes with Robbie Jordan in southern Indiana, listening to Officer Buck drawl out his colorful southern sayings, or watching Robbie ride her bike up and down the scenic hills of Brown County, I’m content. I enjoyed experiencing the slower pace of life in that part of the world for a few years and it’s always nice to be back.
And when I’m hanging out with Quakers and friends in 1888, I love the long skirts, the men’s hats, the graceful carriages, even the wood stove and the chamberpot. It’s so confusing, when I’m immersed in writing a Quaker Midwife mystery, to walk the streets of my town where the books are set and see all these modern cars and electric lights. At least the Friends Meetinghouse looks very much the same as it did when my series takes place.
Sometimes when I’m writing about my characters, I wish I could find a picture of them (a picture including a head). I know what they look like in my brain, and how I have described them, bit by bit, in the stories. My characters, especially my protagonists and their main sidekicks, are so real to me. It seems strange that I can’t Google them and find Cam’s picture on the farm web site, the photograph of Robbie with her late mom, or Rose’s portrait. (Although my story “A Questionable Death,” featuring my 1888 characters and setting, is up for a free read over at Kings River Life Magazine right now, and they came up with some great pictures to illustrate it.)
We’ll all just have to settle for words. And that’s what we do here, after all – paint pictures with words and do our best to transport our readers into the worlds of our stories.
Readers: Which books transport you? Can you picture how the characters look, or doesn’t it matter? And anybody want to sign up to create a portrait of our protagonists?