Welcome today to the talented author Kate Sherwood who’s chatting about the ever-intriguing topic of authors writing what they know – and the readers’ reactions!
GIVEAWAY: Kate is kindly offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of her new book (as soon as it releases) to one lucky commenter. Don’t forget to leave your email address and/or contact details in the comments box, and the winner will be picked at random on Monday 16 Dec.
Write What You Know… When the Audience Doesn’t!
My first few novels were set in the States. It just seemed natural… that’s where the books I read were set, that’s where most of the TV and movies I watched came from, and that’s where the publishers were, not to mention the largest audience. Canada does have its own literary and entertainment industries, and they’re quite vibrant and creative. But they’re small.
Then the Dreamspinner editors posted some beautiful images on their author group and said they were up for grabs, if anyone was inspired by one and wanted to make it a cover for their book. I saw a gorgeous photo by Dan Skinner, a pair of male legs on a dock with nature in the background and it immediately evoked my childhood in Ontario’s cottage country. I wanted to write the book – Lost Treasure – that went with that cover, and I wanted to set it at home.
It was great. I could include all the little details I’d just imagined for my other books. I knew what the characters were smelling and hearing as well as what they were seeing – I don’t care how much time I spent on Google Street View, I could still never get a real feel for places I hadn’t been. So I set my next book, Shying Away, in Vancouver, since I’d lived there for eight years, and many of my books since then have been set in rural Ontario, where I now live.
I love it. But I’m writing for an audience that is mostly American, so while I know my setting much better than I did before, my audience might not. At the same time, Canada isn’t so exotic and fascinating that it deserves the level of description I’d expect in a book set in Zimbabwe or something. Canada’s not different enough to be interesting, just different enough to be weird!
In The Fall, my current release, the characters live in rural Ontario. On a ranch. People not from rural Ontario may not know this, but… there are not a lot of ranches here. I figure an American audience probably wouldn’t know or care, but I do have some Canadian readers, and I care for my own sake that I’m authentic. So I spent some time in the book having a character explain that the locals call it a ranch because it’s a huge chunk of property that’s too hilly for much other than grazing, and what would you call that if not a ranch? And I know of at least one property in Ontario that fits this description so… I’m satisfied!
We also ran into a few challenges with word choices. In Ontario, kids with working parents go to daycare after school. That’s what we call it. According to my Dreamspinner editor, Americans wouldn’t call it daycare, they’d call it afterschool care. So… do I use the Canadian term for authenticity, or the American term for clarity? Same issue with a character eating porridge. Apparently Americans are more likely to call it oatmeal.
They’re just little things, but they’re among the many details we need to sort out before bringing a book to the readers.
Do you guys notice the little stuff? Is Canada so close to the States that you don’t really care if a book is set here? If you do notice, is it for better or worse?
About the Author:
Kate started writing at about the same time she got back on a horse after a twenty-year break. She’d like to think she’s far too young for it to be a mid-life crisis, but apparently she was ready for a few changes!
Kate’s writing focuses on characters and relationships, people trying to find out how much of themselves they need to keep, and how much they can afford to give away. She tries to find a careful balance between drama and humor—she wants readers to have an intense experience and feel drawn into the book, but she also wants them to enjoy the time they spend reading.
The Fall, from Dreamspinner Press, coming December 16, 2013 – available for pre-order now! HERE.
Every relationship leaves something behind. Dumped by his sugar daddy, part-time model Scott Mackenzie somehow ends up owning an abandoned church in rural Ontario. He dreams of using it for gay weddings, even if he’ll never have one of his own. Joe Sutton is trying to keep his family together after his parents’ deaths. Between the family ranch, his brother’s construction company, and commitments around town, he doesn’t have time for a relationship. But Mackenzie is hard to ignore.
As both men fight their growing attraction, challenges to Mackenzie’s business threaten their relationship. If he can’t make it work, he’ll have to crawl back to the city in defeat. But the only solution involves risking the ranch Joe loves, and each man has to decide how much he’ll sacrifice for the other.
Lorraine snorted. “He didn’t seem too friendly? I’m not surprised.” She shrugged philosophically. “It’s probably the gay thing.”
It hit Mackenzie almost like a slap. He’d thought he was prepared for small-town attitudes toward his sexuality and had absolutely considered homophobia as a possible barrier to setting up his wedding chapel somewhere like Falls Creek. But he couldn’t believe it was being treated so casually. “You’re saying he was rude to me because I’m gay?”
Lorraine looked startled. “No. I’m not sure I’d call it rude, but the way he acts? Distant, kind of? I always figured it was because he’s gay. You know, he’s always been a bit different, so he’s never really tried too hard to fit in. He just hangs out on his ranch, being a lonely cowboy….” She trailed off and fixed her gaze on Mackenzie. “But you say you’re gay as well? I mean, I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind. But it seemed rude to ask…. ”
“Joe Sutton is gay.” Mackenzie had always prided himself on being able to read people and certainly on being able to pick up on that little spark from a man who was noticing Mackenzie’s undeniable charms. But he’d gotten none of that from the cowboy brother. “That’s confirmed? Or you’re just guessing?”
“Well, I haven’t been there in the room with him and another fella,” Lorraine said with an arched brow, “but it’s general knowledge. He’s never tried to hide it, not that I ever heard of.”
“Maybe he just couldn’t be bothered to speak in order to deny it. He doesn’t seem like someone who cares a whole lot what other people think about him.” Mackenzie was trying to figure it all out. He wanted to find a mirror and make sure he still looked like himself. First Nathan had dumped him for that twenty-year-old, and now a man living in what must surely be a gay desert had crawled right past Mackenzie’s bountiful oasis?
“You could ask Nancy Yeats’s nephew, if you wanted. Trevor something or other. He lives over in Darton, and I guess the two of them were seeing each other for quite a while.” Lorraine’s grin was a mix of curiosity and mischief. “If you’re interested, I can find out if he’s seeing anyone right now. I haven’t heard of it, and usually that’d be a good sign that it isn’t happening, but like I said, Joe’s a bit different. A bit more private than most folks.”
Private was not a good enough excuse for failing to pay attention to his surroundings or, more importantly, failing to pay attention to Mackenzie. But none of that needed to be shared with a woman who clearly gossiped as a way of life. He smiled brightly. “Oh, no, I’m not interested. You know, not like that. I was just curious. I wanted to know what kind of people I’d be doing business with if I had the Suttons do the work on the church.”
“The best kind,” Lorraine said firmly. “You couldn’t do better.” Lorraine started telling a story about the Suttons helping out some poor family that had lost everything in a house fire—well, of course the whole community had chipped in, but the Suttons had done the biggest part—and some people might say that’s because they’re blood, but really, they’d be third cousins at best—because it was Susan Sutton’s grandmother? Yes, grandmother, Maggie Johnson—she was from out in Newfoundland, back before it was even part of Canada, and she’d carried that accent with her for her whole life…. Mackenzie tuned out. Joe Sutton was openly gay. And Mackenzie was a model, for Christ’s sake. Maybe his career hadn’t quite taken off, but that was because Nathan hadn’t really liked it. He hadn’t been rude enough to try to forbid it, but he’d be grumpy for days before and after Mackenzie went out of town for even a couple days, and there just weren’t enough shoots in Toronto to propel someone into the modeling elite. The first time Mackenzie turned down a New York job, Nathan had leased him a silver Mini convertible as a reward. Mackenzie had been thrilled by the symbol of Nathan’s affection and by the adorable new wheels. But being a good boyfriend had made it a bit difficult to be a good model. So, no, it wasn’t as if Mackenzie had set the world on fire as a model. Still, he must be a tastier piece of ass than Nancy Whoever’s nephew!
Mackenzie forced himself to pay a bit more attention to Lorraine’s chatter, but the biggest part of his brain was still focused elsewhere. He was not going to be ignored by some desperate hick pretending to be a damn cowboy. No. Joe Sutton was about to get his world rocked. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” he muttered to himself, and then he smiled when Lorraine shot him a quizzical glance. “I’ve got to go,” he said without trying to explain. “But thanks so much for catching me up on all this. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
He beat a hasty retreat inside and went to sit in the sanctuary of the church. A lot to think about. And a lot of things to do, things actually based around the important points of building a successful business and keeping himself out of the poorhouse. But his mind kept drifting back to the tall cowboy who’d told him he had bats in his belfry. And then ignored him. What the hell was Joe Sutton’s problem?