Monday, May 1, 2017

A Character Named Burgundy

Q: Do your favorite authors use setting as character?

-from Susan

With a new book coming out in a few days, I’ve been invited to do some guest blog posts here and there. I could write about the mystery at the heart of the story, but because it’s set in France and I love France, I find I’ve been drawn to focus on the setting. The physical environment is as much a character in Love & Death in Burgundy as are Katherine and Michael Goff, the middle-aged American artist and her musician husband trying to fit into the small town where the story is set.

Setting, or place, can be a casual reference, a necessary piece of ground over which the story moves almost without touching the surface, or it can loom large and influence the action. I think some authors sketch the setting and let it go at that because their hero and villain are so large and dominating that it hardly matters where they battle. On the other hand, the author who can draw me into a physical world has me in the palm of her hand as long as she has a good tale to match.

The settings don’t have to be charming or appealing and not all the richly details settings are in cozies or traditional mysteries where the pace might be slower. Just think of the enormously popular Scandinavian authors or spy stories set in cold, dreary East Germany. The characters embedded in specific places can’t help but let the heat, the traffic, or the food shape their moods and their activities any more than we can escape those environmental factors in our lives. If, when you finish a book, you remember the fresh green after a spring shower, the smell of the sea, the wind pushing down the corridors between skyscrapers, or the unrelieved dry heat that wilted the characters, then setting has enriched and made that story more memorable on a visceral level. There are books I recall specifically because I experienced the setting vicariously.

Love & Death in Burgundy is set in mid-summer, by the way, a great time to enjoy the small towns, outdoor markets, and verdant chateau grounds of the Yonne region. 

The next book in the series is set in the dead of winter in the same place, an entirely different experience for Katherine, Michael, and their neighbors, as it was for me when I went on a research trip two weeks before Christmas. 

But it was still France and you’ll be glad to know the patisseries were open and hot chocolate was on offer in the cafes!


Unknown said...

You're really making me want to see the world, Susan! AND read Love & Death in Burgundy. Both taken together would be best :)

RJ Harlick said...

I love France too, Susan, and have had several enjoyable trips to Burgundy, so I can't wait to experience it again in your new book.

Unknown said...

Can't wait to visit Burgundy in your book!

Art Taylor said...

Great seeing you at Malice—and congrats again on the new book!