I am delighted today to bring you all this absolutely wonderful piece of writing from J.M. Richardson, author of The Barataria Key.
When I first read Joshua’s words I was immediately transported to another place, another time. I could hear the music and sense all the tastes and smells.
Please do continue to read what J. M. Richardson wrote and see for yourself how important that sense of location is in a book….
Location, Location, Location
My newest novel, The Barataria Key, follows Dr. James Beauregard in his second adventure I’ve created for him. He was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the southern United States. I grew up near New Orleans. Even Stephen King recommends writing what one knows, which is why most of his novels are set primarily in the state of Maine.
I know New Orleans.
I know the southern United States.
I know history and social sciences. Naturally, I set the James Beauregard series at least partially in New Orleans.
Why? Settings are important.
It’s even more important to describe that location thoroughly.
Why do people read fiction?
To a large degree, it’s an escape. You’ve been working hard all day, relegated to the service of other people, whether that’s a boss, customers, or coworkers. Then you go home, and you have to tidy up your home, cook dinner for your kids, put them to bed, fold a load of laundry, and wash the dishes. By now, it’s 8:30 in the evening and you have just now stopped. It is your time to do what you will.
So many of us want to be transported from our daily grind and mundane existence to a place that is unfamiliar. We get to travel for the price of a novel, rather than the price of a plane ticket. Perhaps we even get to time travel. We want a window into the lives of others in a place we’ve never been, and probably will never go.
The famous American playwright Tennessee Williams once said that there were three cities in the United States: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. The rest is Cleveland. He spent a lot of time in New Orleans. His famous work, A Streetcar Named Desire was set there. People love to read about New Orleans. It’s the next best thing to actually being there. It’s a city I love, for better or for worse, and it inspires me to write.
Allow me to tell you why.
Two hundred years ago, it was often referred to as the Isle of Orleans. It’s not an island exactly, but it’s surrounded by water on all sides. It rests in a crescent in the Mississippi River, flanked by swamps and bayous to the east and west, and bordered by a large, brackish lake to the north. The French founded it in 1718, one of the oldest permanent settlements in present-day United States. She has changed hands many times over the centuries, belonging to the Spanish crown, and eventually the most important port in the U.S. Through fires, hurricanes, and evolution, the city has taken on a patchwork of heritage influenced by a multitude of ethnic origins.
To visit the neighborhood of James Beauregard, one would take a stroll along two-story American Greek Revival homes beneath their Spanish style wrought iron galleries. Across the street, a French convent built in 1750 occupies an entire city block. The sun is setting, allowing the reddish brown mud bricks to be bathed in an orange glow. The sting of the summer sun has gone, but its legacy lives on in the moisture-laden air.
Creole cottages and the former homes of aristocrats hang with ferns as palm trees tower from courtyards within. One is reminded of why the city is the northernmost end of the Caribbean.
A few blocks away, a man croons with his trumpet a lumbering, mellow jazz tune, and you feel the African creole gene in the city’s DNA.
The neighborhoods founded by former slaves from Africa and Haiti lie beyond the French Quarter. Perhaps a trombone-playing future superstar hones his style on the porch steps. The scent of crawfish etouffeé and seafood gumbo course upon the heavy air as you follow it like a siren leading you to your doom. You feel the spirits of people who occupied this street centuries ago. They exist, trapped in the driftwood beams and stucco-coated brick. You peer to the west down Bourbon Street to see the modern high-rise buildings cast their shadow on colonial homes that house modern strip clubs. You find yourself inside an eighteenth century cottage now used as a bar, with a rum-loaded “hurricane” to sip and a local New Orleanian who has become your new best friend.
You are caught somewhere between the past and present, in a place of fantasy, surrealism, and Voodoo magic. It enters your bloodstream through the shrimp creole that you ate. It takes residence in a tiny piece of your heart, with you always until your dying day.
Settings are important.
The trick is finding a place that you love; that intrigues you. Allow it to consume you. Immerse yourself. Transport your reader into a world beyond their sofa. Allow them to lose themselves in that location to the point they may not readily want to leave.
Your story will then grab hold of them, dragging them deeper into your mind and that place beyond.
Thank you so much Joshua for joining me today and sharing such a fabulous post on the importance of location in a novel.
I, for one, felt like I was transported to the back streets of New Orleans and as a lover of Jazz music, I closed my eyes and heard that ‘mellow tune’!!!
For more information please see the attached book blurb and all the associated links.
It lurks in the shadowy recesses of the French Quarter, among the flickering gas lanterns and Creole courtyards. In the humid, teeming swamps of Barataria. A dark secret.
An ancient force.
The will to remake one’s history.
James Beauregard finds himself at the center of an insidious conspiracy, two hundred years in the making.
From the backstreets of New Orleans to the once pirate-infested waters of the Gulf Coast, the race begins to unravel the mystery of The Barataria Key.
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