Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Keeping up with the... by Cathy Ace

The world is changing faster than you can write - technologically, politically, environmentally etc. How do you roll with the changes in your fiction?

Budapest's tumultuous history permeates this book
Oh my, yes, this is the sort of thing that can present an author with constant challenges. For each of my two series – both of which are set in contemporary times – I have tackled such potential pitfalls in two different ways.

In my Cait Morgan Mysteries, Cait is faced with a traditionally-shaped, puzzle-based mystery to solve, and in each book I use a classic closed-circle framework, where only one of a relatively small number of people could have dunnit. Bear in mind that I use real settings for the Cait books: the south of France, BC’s wine country, Mexico, Vegas, Wales, a cruise ship/Hawaii, Amsterdam, Budapest. In each case, despite the "classic" shape of the tale, I recognize certain realities of the setting – the history, architecture, culture, food, and even quirks. In some cases (eg: the books set in Mexico and Budapest especially) the political background of the location is critical to the story. 

The quirks of the local inhabitants? Normal here!

As such, I do a huge amount of research, and I also use settings with which I am familiar – having either lived or worked there, or at least having spent months there, off and on. Sometimes I’ll use the setting in a specific way, for example, in the case of THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB, set on the Pacific coast of Mexico, environmental factors such as the shortage of water, the need for both tourism and agriculture, but the imbalance caused by the massive amount of water used by tourists is one of the elements that sours the locals to the incomers in the tale. So I think it’s fair to say that in the Cait Morgan Mysteries I allow my fiction to grow from the roots of reality. In all aspects, and with all the changes we see in the twenty-teens. But the Cait books are not political diatribes – neither with an upper or lower case p; that’s not what I’m writing about, though my characters do not live in a vacuum, and are the product of their upbringing in every case.

In the case of my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, whilst they are set in Wales (which, contrary to some opinions, is a real place!) they are specifically set largely (allowing for some spectacular excursions) within the fictional environs of stately Chellingworth Hall, and the nearby village of Anwen-by-Wye. Now these are not real places, but they do operate in the real world. Indeed, one factor of all the WISE Enquiries books is that modern technology plays a significant part in the major cases that these private investigators are tackling. 

Use the Internet here? But of course!
In THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS COOK, 3D printing plays a key role, for example, and I’ve brought state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, google mapping, online dating, social networks and the general use of online sources of research data to bear in the books. It’s interesting to allow for the interplay between the sort of lives lived by people with a title that goes back to the fifteenth century and modern life. 

One thing to my advantage, you might think, is that Wales is full of mountains, lakes, empty spaces and few people, and it really does have massive areas where you cannot get any cellphone reception…but I have to be careful how I use that, because readers might think I’m using such a device unfairly, however realistic it is. 
Yes, lots of Wales is "empty"!

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#4, The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor will be released in hardcover in the UK in September 2017 and in the USA & Canada on January 1st 2018).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers:


Unknown said...

This was very interesting to read. Cathy's books take me to many locations I will probably never visit. When I read her books, I learn so much about the culture, history, and geography of her settings. I also learn more about current technology and how it is used in a variety of ways. All this, while enjoying a great mystery!

Unknown said...

I can see how mixing old-world with new can make for entertaining reading and writing! So have you tried a 3D printer? I'm going to need to buy a drone this year for Book IV, for research purposes only, not for fun at all.

Susan C Shea said...

I recall how important it was that one of the WISE detectives could research quickly on the internet from the tiny village. I didn't have any doubt that she could, so it worked fine.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Mary - thanks for your kind words. I love to learn new things, and spend time "taking friends to visit" places I know well - so pleased you enjoy coming along :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Rachel - indeed I did work with a 3D printer. They are absolutely fascinating and are already changing the world in which we live in many ways. I'm also using drones in an upcoming book - yikes! :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Susan - yes, online research is now something so many people are used to I believe it's a "given" for most readers. Internet access allows the world to be at one's fingertips. It's then the expertise of the researcher that comes to bear upon the characters' skill-sets are important :-)