For those of you who are impassioned followers of this blog, you'll recall that I wrote last week of a recent trip to the Finger Lakes in NY. While it is most definitely a tourist destination, each town is also extremely small and relatively isolated. They've got an old-fashioned main street that lasts about three blocks. No fast food chains - or really chains of any kind. You might have to drive twenty miles down the lake shore to get to a freeway onramp, and you'd still be miles from anything resembling a mall. Yes, it was quaint and beautiful...and would've broken me out in hives of anxiety from being so far away from 'services' if I'd spent another day there. You see, I am a born and bred city girl. I like knowing I'm five minutes from just about anything I need, no matter how esoteric. I like knowing there are people around me at all times. I like the ease of city life, the panoply of options for entertainment and food and shopping and things to do. Every time I spend (very limited) time in a small town, I shudder and say to my husband "How can people live here?" (no offense intended to anyone, trust me!).
But.....there are writers out there who set a book, or even an entire series in tiny, tiny towns. Nora Roberts Chesapeake trilogy, Carly Phillips Bachelor trilogy, Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down, and Small Town Girl by Patricia Rice. The magical thing about these authors is that each and every one of them makes me want to move to a small town by the time I'm barely haflway through the book! They make it sound so supportive and charming and fun that I'm ready to pack up and ship out to a small shore town that closes half its businesses in the winter. Their setting is so richly woven that they are able to not only transport my mind, but practically convince me to literally transport myself to a location I know full well I wouldn't like after the first week.
For me, that is the epitome of the perfect setting. Authors are the original snake-oil salesmen. We have to convince you beyond a doubt that these wholly imaginary characters and scenarios we create are plausible enough and interesting enough that the reader will be drawn in, and care enough to give up precious free time to emotionally invest in the book. Setting is a big part of that. Readers can travel the world from the comfort of their sofa, hassle-free. As a child, reading can open unknown worlds to you, and as an adult, it allows you to vicariously vacation without dealing with passports, tarmac delays and bedbugs. I think authors have a huge responsibility to world build in every novel, whether it is set on Mars or London, or your very small hometown. If an author 100% believes in their setting, and loves it and can share that enthusiasm through their writing, while I am between their pages, it is the perfect setting.