Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It's All in the Setting! by Jannine Gallant

I don’t know about you, but for me, the setting just might sell the book. If I read a back-cover blurb and am intrigued by a unique setting, I’m more likely to give a new author a try than if the story takes place somewhere that doesn’t resonate with me. Some locales—like Hawaii—just shout romance. I immediately picture long walks on moonlit beaches, swimming with turtles, hot guys surfing… You get the picture! But sometimes Romance is more fun when you find it in unusual places.

For suspense books, readers may expect something a little grittier. A place with a darker side… But, I’m not a big city girl. I live in the woods…okay maybe not the way a bear does, but they are right outside my door in Lake Tahoe. I like to make my characters rough it a little. Every Step She Takes contains a little of both worlds. My heroine is from San Francisco. She covets five star accommodations and well-equipped gyms for exercise. I pulled her out of her element and tossed her down in the wilds of Alaska. The following excerpt is an example of what she has to deal with...

One foot in front of the other. Stumbling down the trail in the semi-dark a short time later, she repeated the mantra through clenched teeth. Ahead of her, Travis walked with a jaunty step. Obviously he was one of those disgusting morning people. Another thing they didn’t have in common.
“How’re you doing?” He called over his shoulder without having the decency to turn around.
“We can take a break and have something to eat once we get off the main trail.”
The amusement in his voice found a home on her third nerve. “Wylie can have my share. I’m not hungry.”
“How long are you going to sulk?”
A yawn nearly cracked her jaw. “Not sure. Maybe another hour or so.”
“Good to know. I’ll set my watch and check back with you then.”
Grinning, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Her bad mood evaporated as the sun rose, shining golden through the trees. With each passing mile, the forest thinned, turning to a stretch of rugged grassland.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice croaked from disuse. She cleared it.
“Without cover, it’s easy to spot someone in this terrain with a pair of binoculars. Forget what I said about taking a break. We need to run instead.”
“How am I supposed to do that carrying a backpack?”
He stopped abruptly. “Hot damn, that must be the secondary trail. See those scuffmarks. I’m guessing Sutton dropped his pack there, maybe to pull out a map or food.”
Grace stared at the ground and blinked. Dirt and rocks, a few bent grass stems... Wylie sniffed the area before wandering off.
Turning, Travis faced her. Worry lines fanned out from his eyes. “I really want to lose the guy tailing us. See the trees up there near the base of the mountain. We can rest when we get to them.”
Her skill at judging distance without convenient street blocks was sadly lacking, but she guessed it was at least a couple of miles. “I suppose I can run that far. Let’s do it.”
His eyes warmed. “You’re a good sport.” Bending, he brushed away the prints in the dirt. “Not much I can do about the grass. Try to stay on the rocks until we get a few yards away. This isn’t much of a trail, and I’m hoping the man following us will pass by without noticing it.”
Stepping carefully, she followed Travis across the uneven ground. Wylie tore through the grass, ears flapping as a big jack rabbit bounded before him. After a couple of minutes, he returned, a disappointed look in his eyes.
“Sorry, buddy.” She gasped for air. Running with the pack was an effort. It thumped painfully against her tailbone, but she didn’t dare stop to adjust the straps. The distance between her and Travis increased gradually. She forced herself to run faster.
Reaching the trees took an eternity. Focused on the blur of green, it slowly morphed into individual, towering spruce and hemlocks. The rising sun filtered through the branches, and a bed of needles padded the ground beneath her aching feet.
“We can stop now.”
Grace slid the pack from her shoulders and let it fall with a thump. She dropped next to it, her chest rising and falling with her labored breathing. Rivulets of sweat soaked her shirt, and needles clung to damp skin. With tongue hanging and sides heaving, Wylie flopped down a short distance away.
“You okay?”
Letting out a long breath, she closed her eyes. “Yeah.”
“I’m unbelievably impressed.”
Grace opened one eye, squinting against the light angling down on her face. Travis stood next to her. His thigh muscles bunched beneath soft cotton sweatpants when he squatted beside his pack.
“By what, my graceful collapse or sweat drenched hair?”
“Good God, Grace, half the Navy SEALS I trained with couldn’t have maintained that pace. You’re an animal.”
“A compliment guaranteed to put a smile on any woman’s face.”

So, what are your favorite settings? Do you prefer country or city? A tropical beach or a snowbound cabin? How about my Alaskan wilderness? Is my sweat-drenched heroine destined for romance?

Every Step She Takes is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo. For info on my other books, check out my Website.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Uh-huh! Excellent! Truly excellent! Full disclosure, an avid walker, I happened to um, edit this book while I was grounded with a blown knee. Soooo wanted to run along side! Talk about frustrated! Oh, and I'll take the trails and beaches over those five star accommodations MOST of the time.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Love the excerpt, Jannine. One of my books earned a great comment from a reviewer that the setting was a character in itself. Yep, I love a good setting.

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks, Margo. Although running with a backpack--I can live without that.

What a nice compliment the reviewer gave you, Brenda. I think the setting should be a character in and of itself!

Rolynn Anderson said...

I'm always more interested in an outdoor setting than indoor. Country, best. Good choice, Alaska is...lots of surprises available to a suspense writer with that setting...especially when you go looking at what's under all those blue tarps. Fun excerpt...Grace must have been a faithful fitness center gal in SF :-)

Unknown said...

I confess setting doesn't matter as much to me as I know it does to some. I'm a plot girl - give me a good plot and I'm hooked :)

Loved the excerpt and I give the heroine credit - if it had been me having to run for a couple miles...well, yeah, we probably would've been spotted! I would've offered to maybe do the army crawl through the tall grass or something ;)

I'm a child of the suburbs I guess! LOL

Jannine Gallant said...

Rolynn, yes Grace mentions being a gym rat earlier on. I guess it paid off for her. LOL

Nicole, my hero does have to army crawl at one point. They have to get back across that meadow later on, and it's a bit more eventful! I do love an exciting plot, but for me it better play out in an interesting setting! Thanks for stopping by.

Alison Henderson said...

Setting is critical for me, too. I often choose books at least partially for the setting. Loved the excerpt! I was much like Grace when I was younger - a real city girl. I've grown to be a true nature lover as I've aged. I can't wait to read Every Step She Takes as soon as I get my current project wrapped up.

Jannine Gallant said...

That's because you're living in bea-u-ti-ful California now. Your "setting" has released the nature-lover in you, Alison! Enjoy ESST when you get to it!

Diane Burton said...

I'm reading ESST (love the acronym) and enjoying reading about a place I've never been to. I've written a series of blog posts (on Paranormal Romantics) about world-building, which is essential to sci-fi. But it's also essential to every book, we just call it setting.

Jannine Gallant said...

I've used a paint program to draw a whole town for a couple of my series, Diane. Not this book, though, since it takes place in multiple locations. I found it really helpful when creating a whole town to keep the details straight! Looking forward to hearing what you thought of ESST!

Leah St. James said...

Love your excerpt, Jannine! I just grabbed a Kindle copy! Your first book (EVERY MOVE SHE MAKES) featured hiking too, if I recall. (Great story, by the way!) Reading makes me remember long autumn walks around Lake Scranton in Pennsylvania (gorgeous reservoir with five-mile path around it). For someone who rarely gets out into a wooded area (or outside, period), it's a treat for me to be "carried away" to different locals. T

Jannine Gallant said...

All my characters in the Who's Watching Now series do a lot of hiking, Leah. Gotta keep those heroes (and heroines) in shape! Pennsylvania in the fall sounds beautiful. We've got to get you back outside again. It's amazing what a little nature will do for your frame of mind!