One of the first choices an author makes when starting to write is the setting. Where do I want this book to take place? Should it be a city or small town, real or fictional? In writing my Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries, I decided to set them in a place I’m very familiar with – schools! I’ve taught in an elementary school, a high school; private schools and public schools –and Lord knows I’ve spent years on college campuses getting advanced degrees in education. I felt I could make the setting feel authentic and that my readers would relate to the setting, especially teachers.
My next consideration was where should Susan Wiles and her family live? As with most cozy mysteries, a small town makes for interesting characters, gossip, and the feeling of being a close knit family. Living in South Florida, I often miss the seasons I grew up with in upstate New York. My fictional town of Westbrook, NY, is a little like my home town, but upgraded to be more like a resort town. I have the option of snow, colored leaves, and winding mountain roads – more possibilities than where I live now, where it’s flat and virtually always hot, with palm trees that look the same day after day.
I did set my fourth book, Murder is Private, in Florida for a change of pace, but I invented the ideal school I wish I worked in. It’s a private school for the performing arts, with smart, talented students, next to the beach. When I’m writing, I immerse myself in the setting, so why not make it I place I want to be?
My current work in progress starts in Atlanta, where my son went to college. Brings back nice memories. The second half of the book is back in Westbrook. For the book after that (yet to be named) I’ll be in a small, snowy community in New England. Susan and Mike will be visiting newly retired friends who live in a rustic cabin. Hmmm…think I’ll write that one over summer break!
By Diane Weiner