Since I was a child, I’ve felt one of the coolest things about books is that they let us travel somewhere new without ever leaving home. To this day, I often choose books simply because of where they’re set. Places have a feel, a vibe, that is unique to them and I love exploring those differences. A slow-paced, small southern town does not feel the same as bustling San Francisco. The predawn hush of the mountains is different than the calm waters of the ocean before sunrise.
That feel and those unique differences matter to me. I love stories where the setting is so inextricably bound to the plot that you can’t just pick it up and drop it somewhere else. The story wouldn’t work.
When I start brainstorming a new story idea, setting plays a huge part. I start thinking, “What cool features, places, and activities are unique to this area?”
My Florida Wildlife Warriors series is set in the Ocala National Forest in Central Florida. For many people, when they think Florida, they think Miami, beaches and Disney.
But there is so much more here. The Ocala National Forest spans 373,000 acres of woods and hammocks, populated by black bears, coyotes, bobcats, deer, snakes and birds, to name a few. Our rivers are home to alligators and our springs attract manatees and countless fish.
Did you know the Ocala National Forest is also home to Rhesus Macaque monkeys? Yep. They are wild (aka feral) and contrary to popular belief, they were not brought here during the filming of the Tarzan movies in the 1930s. They were actually brought here by a boat captain who thought he’d get more tourists aboard his Jungle Cruise if he had something cool for guests to see. He imported a troop of monkeys from southeast Asia and put them on an island in the crystal-clear Silver River. When he came back with his boatful of guests, those monkeys were gone. He didn’t know they could swim!
Almost a hundred years later, the monkeys are still around and the locals are still debating their future. Around here, folks have strong opinions about them, both for and against.
Is it any wonder, then, that Delilah Atwood, my heroine in BEYOND POWER (book 2) is a monkey researcher who thinks they should stay? And Josh Tanner, with FWC (The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) which is tasked with managing the monkeys, views things a bit differently? I couldn’t resist, because those opposing viewpoints create instant conflict in the story. And strong conflict is what drives a good story. <grin>
What do you think? Does a story’s setting matter to you? Or is it more of a backdrop you don’t really notice, like wallpaper in a familiar room? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you want to know more about the Florida Wildlife Warriors series, or purchase a copy, please click on the links below: