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Tasha Alexander | How I Choose the Setting for my Books

October 25, 2010

Tasha AlexanderDangerous to knowWhen I sat down to begin the fifth installment in my Lady Emily series, I thought very seriously about where to set the book. Location is an essential tool when writing about continuing characters, not only because it provides the opportunity to introduce readers to another place, but also because it gives the author a chance to drop her creations into a new environment, one that exposes them to a broader, different world. A world that can be difficult, but one that in the end allows them to grow.

Because in Dangerous to Know, Emily is recovering from the ghastly wounds inflicted upon her at the end of Tears of Pearl, I wanted to send her somewhere idyllic and beautiful. But I also wanted it to be a place where terrible secrets could be hidden.

Normandy proved the perfect choice. Its sweeping landscapes look straight out of an Impressionist painting, and dotted throughout I found the ruins of châteaux, crumbling medieval abbeys, and rambling houses that screamed for ghosts. I spent a good portion of last summer researching and writing there, getting to know the area, the people, and the food. It was Author Heaven (especially if, like me, you’re irresistibly drawn to cheese…). As I explored, the details of the book took shape, and I was able to construct a story that would challenge Emily and let her grow.

I do much of my research through reading. My office is heaped with books, maps, and pictures. I focus on memoirs, letters, and diaries, as well as historiography, always wanting to be meticulous about historical accuracy. As important as that is, nothing can match being immersed in the culture about which you’re writing. It allows a writer to marry detail with atmosphere in a way nothing else can. Dangerous to Know is the richer for the time I spent in France. I only wish I could have brought the cheese home with me…


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