Saturday, April 28, 2018

How #Setting Tugs at a #Reader By C. Hope Clark

Roses and Readers, please welcome C. Hope Clark today as our guest. She's talking of my favorite topics. Enjoy!

My fiction carries a strong sense of place. I prefer reading books where place impacts plot and characterization. Most readers, in my humble opinion, want setting to be a solid piece of the composition, where they feel they’ve left the world they live in and have completely immersed themselves into another, regardless the genre.
When you consider place, note that people as a whole usually fall into one category or another. They either love their home and the comfort of roots, or they dream of travel. Any book needs to accommodate one feeling or the other, if not both.
This blog tour I’m on of late, is in honor of my latest release Newberry Sin, the fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Setting sucked me into this story. My tales are usually grounded in real places. Towns, beaches, rural areas more than urban. Newberry Sin takes place in a real community named Newberry. Why? Because I can so see myself living there. It reminds me of age-old roots I wish still existed.
Small town Southern beckons me. I was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi and spent summers on my grandparents’ cotton farm. Grandpa was a farmer who donned a wilted fedora even in the fields with Grandma wearing a farmer’s wife dress and proverbial apron that could carry three dozen eggs from the coop back to the house. I climbed pear trees and chased feral kittens amongst the hay bales in the barn. Took my summer afternoon naps on an eight-inch-deep quilt spread across a four-poster bed. My grandmother’s rooster and Billy goat chased my sister, but loved me. I collected eggs but could not watch a hen prepped for dinner.
I played in the hollowness under a wisteria bush and tried to remember not to let the screen door slam on my way out. Biscuits were homemade every morning, served with real butter and maple syrup with my record being twelve biscuits at one sitting. For the longest time, the only phone was a party line that I would sneak and eavesdrop on when nobody looked.
Carolina Slade, the protagonist in this series, loves the country, has a degree in agricultural,
and lives to right the wrongs in what most people think is homespun rural Americana. But where there’s money, frankly, where there’s humanity of any kind, there’s corruption and a pecking order of the haves and have-nots. Slade traverses that world trying to maintain that country setting stereotype and rid the world of the ill-doers for the betterment of all. She’s an old soul in a forty-year-old body whom you might fool once, but never twice. And family means everything to her.This Newberry setting appeals to my roots. However, it appeals to an amazing number who’ve never spent a night on a farm, too. We’ve reached an era where our grandparents were more likely urban than rural, and so many wish they could’ve experienced what that was like.Which means in these days when we can travel so easily, the ruralness of Newberry Sin and the other Slade books beckons to the traveler. They can envision themselves transported to barns, fields, rivers, and general stores, and if only for the length of a story, belong to a different life.

Setting is a powerful tool. Its foundation helps mold the personality, mission, and emotional substance of a character. It’s why authors owe readers the purest delivery of that sense of place that they can. Because to refine your players, they have to be home to understand what to defend, or be away from home to have something to miss. Some piece of place grounds them, or leaves them restless. They pine for what they don’t have, or they find themselves unable to  leave it.
After WKDK-AM Radio in Newberry invited me five years ago to talk about Carolina Slade’s first escapades on the air, I was invited to one book club, then another. Each person, each setting, made me fall in love with all things Newberry. I joined the Friends of the Library, a strong contingency fighting illiteracy in Newberry County, and soon found myself at their annual, old-fashioned luncheon of chicken salad, fruit salad, and a take-away Dixie cup filled with a potted vinca or begonia for each person to take home and plant.
This was what I wanted in my Slade books. Five years after that introduction, Slade finally tackles a mystery in Newberry, South Carolina. The town is thrilled. Heck, the neighboring towns are thrilled. I’m beyond thrilled, because as I stated, everyone either feels at home, or wishes they could be there, while at the same time journeying through a mystery where the clues make everyone sure they can figure it out, because it’s all so familiar.


BIO: C. Hope Clark’s latest is Newberry Sin, her eighth mystery. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, and her newsletters reach 34,000 readers each Friday. Her novels have won several awards, for content and covers, and Writer’s Digest selected FundsforWriters for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last 17 years.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Welcome to Roses of Prose. Your description of country life really pulled me in. Setting is a very important part of any story. Not only do we readers need to know whom we are with, we also need to know where we are. Best of luck on your series. Sounds like you’re have gone, and are going to go far.

Leah St. James said...

Welcome, Hope! I also got sucked into your description of life on your grandparents' farm. And you're so right about why readers love setting. I've never spent a day on a farm (it's been suburbia for me my whole life), so I love reading about small country hometowns, but I also love books set in big cities. I'm going to check into the Newberry series!

Jannine Gallant said...

My grandparents had a small farm, too. I remember the smells (hay and cows) most of all, the fun of running out to the barn where the cats lived, and the sun beating down on me while I picked berried and my fingers turned purple. I write small town books, as well, and it is so important to create an environment that draws in the reader. Sounds like you've done this in Newberry!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Giving a reader a sense of setting is like a ticket to travel. One of my most treasured reviews called my setting a character in its own right. Good post.

Hope Clark said...

Thanks so much, friends. Setting is key to me in a book, and I define it almost before I define characters when I start writing. I want to feel like I am there, so the characters behave naturally in that setting. We like reading a book and being transferred to another place. Appreciate the kind words!

Gina Barlean said...

I love my childhood memories on the farm. No wonder we see eye to eye on things.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Welcome to our ROP, Hope. Congratulations on an impressive body of work! We might be sisters...settings are important characters in my suspense novels, as well...and part of my brand. You can't bury a murder victim in Alaska in the what do you do with the body? Hide it under blue tarp. Lots of blue tarp in Alaska :-) Thanks for visiting us today!

Hope Clark said...

I love your group, Rolynn. Thanks for allowing me to share with you and your readers. Looks like we all love setting! And about Alaska, I can see that about a body. On the coast of SC, just float it into the ocean for the sharks or leave it in a back marsh for the gators.

Andrea Downing said...

Wow, I thought I was right back reading Faulkner again with your descriptions (the gentler books). Loved your childhood memories. I'm a city-bed girl who loves Wyoming--a sense of place comes for all different reasons. Good luck with this next book!

Diane Burton said...

Welcome, Hope. Great post. Loved the description of your memories on the farm. Wishing you much success.