Late Friday afternoon a friend telephoned me. He was the chairman of the writers’ group I used to go to before I moved to my present town. We have kept in touch because of our common interest in writing and our shared views on how writers’ groups ought to operate. At the moment he’s writing a friend’s biography, coincidentally someone who lives in America, and he likes to let off steam as it’s proving a difficult task with her scatterbrain memories.
His main reason for calling was to say that he had received notification from Amazon that I had published a new book and he had ordered it. His second sentence was along the lines of ‘And you’re set another story in America!’. Out of the seven books I have written, six have been located in America, all but one in New York. The one not set ‘over the pond’ was the first I wrote which I published under a different name. Boy, am I glad I did! It’s a bit different from the others and in my opinion in desperate need of a rewrite. You may think my writing now is not up to much; well, this is worse!
Anyway, why are so many set in America? I think I have answered this question in some other post, explaining how I was brought up with so many TV programmes from the USA – The Lone Ranger, The Virginian, Star Trek, Time Tunnel, Rhoda, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Starsky and Hutch, Ironside, Kojak, The Waltons, right on through to Cheers, Frasier, Spin City and The Big Bang Theory and many others in between.
But I think also it’s because America is such a fantasy place to me, so far away physically even though so close now through the web and flying, that I can lose myself in the location, like when creating a fantasy world. When I come to do the research on the city, the theatres, the bars, the music, etc, then it becomes a real place and the research is a fun activity so different from putting down new words on a blank page/screen. If I set a story in the UK, I find it such a dull location, the language so tepid, the characters so mundane. It’s like when I first got into Scandinavian crime thrillers; I loved them when set in countries where the towns sounded like something out of Tolkien, and the characters’ names were almost impossible to pronounce. When I tried reading a crime book set in London or Glasgow or Manchester, they all seemed so depressing, the people was messed up with no redeeming features. It’s just me, isn’t it?
And so I go on, 48,000 words into the next book set in…America. Surprise, surprise. And again in New York. I have got an idea for the next book involving my main two characters, Bobby Olsen and Carol Rios, where they drive down to Mexico to see her parents. That could at least be a challenge; new locations, new towns, new environments.
Oh, and apologies to any American readers of my books. I do try to get the ‘lingo’ correct and the references to cars, buildings, fashion, etc. I expect some are incorrect or misplaced by a decade or two.