Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A call for help from my writerly friends

As a bit of background, I call myself a Kwozzie. I was born in Australia but I have spent my life thus far split between Australia and New Zealand, although not in two distinct chunks. The only place I've been to outside of Australia or NZ is Rarotonga. Yes.. I need to get out more.

In the past I've only written fantasy and I think a big reason for this is that I get to make up my worlds. I'm not constrained by the world I know.

Now as you know, I've started a Sekrit Projekt. It's not actually secret, I just like the name. Or I guess it's like cheating on my other WIP so maybe that's how it got that label. Anyway, I digress.

The Sekrit Projekt is a YA paranormal. The only paranormal elements are vamps and angels (pfft.. come up with something more original) and... it's set in America. Do you see my problem?

So being a good little researcher I turned to the ever faithful Wikipedia. I know next to nothing about the United States (other than what I've learnt on TV... don't look at me like that... don't worry I plan to rectify this as soon as possible, I will be visiting you soon) so I chose a bunch of states at random.

Why yes, I do imagine Ben Barnes as all my hot male characters. Can you tell I'm a little obsessed?
Also, I spent far too long making this..

So much information on demographics and history and geography and economics and whoa brain overload! What I really want is personal insight. A reason to go 'that place sounds cool, I want my story to be set there!' And that's where you guys come in.

If you're in the US can you tell me about your favourite places (or any place really) and what you think is cool about them? Anything from big cities, to little towns, to the wilderness. And even if you're not in the US feel free to pitch in. Can always do with some inspiration for future stories.

Vicki has pointed out that this could be a little too broad. I've had a bit of a think about where I think this story is going (I'm a pantster, so no in depth plotting here, but I am trying to expand my planning horizons). I'm not sure that this is going to narrow down the search by much, but I'll need a city with a good mix of middle class suburbia and crime (a place where vampire killings can be written off as some other vicious crime, but there are still classy places to live). And an area of woodland nearby, which maybe has a kinda creepy feel to it. Umm... I'm not really being much help am I?


  1. What a shame having to go on holiday to research... i think i picked the wrong spot for my book, forget the hospital i'm sending Sam to the Caribbean!!

    sorry i can help as you know i'm in Aus too... :-)

    go crusaders!!

  2. Any ideas of the part of the country you're interested in? Or the kinds of benefits and attractions you want your characters to have access to? It's a big country!

  3. Hey Constance, I think this story will be finished by the time I make it over there. But it will be retrospective research ;). I definitely want to do some travelling once I've finished uni.

    Vicki, I really don't have much of an idea I'm afraid. I'll have a think about a couple of the scenes I have an idea about and edit the post.

  4. Oh, Charleston, South Carolina! People here still believe in "haints" (they h'aint alive and they h'aint dead!), North Chas has one of the highest crime rates in the US, downtown is lovely and old, there's plenty of suburbia (Mt Pleasant and Summerville) and then there's the places that aren't the city. And those places are full of scary red-necks and swamps (and alligators!). Plus there are a good number of books about Charleston, so research will be easy.

  5. I was a bit shocked when I read you knew nothing about the United States. Then I realized I knew nothing about Australia, so we're even. ;D

    This probably isn't what you had in mind. . . but, I'd say the capital of Alaska, which is Juneau. I just think there is something eerie about how cold and grey it always is up in Alaska. There are gorgeous woods and mountains around it, if that satisfies the need for wilderness. I'm not too sure about how much crime there is, but you know, maybe you can get away with it. :)

    (Oh! And Ben Barnes, EXCELLENT choice!)

  6. Wish I had a good suggestion for you. There's a park in northern Minnesota with a natural pond like thing that drains mysteriously. I think it's called the Devil's Hole.

  7. I'm afraid the only places I'm really familiar with are in Wisconsin. Madison has a decent crime rate. I may be biased because I live on a University campus which is relatively safe. I know further north in WI there's Green Bay, which is roughly the size of Madison, should have a pretty good crime rate. Plus there's the wild, commercialize-me-and-I'll-die Door County right next to it. (But that's an entire county so I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.)

  8. I would say Denver, Colorado or someplace close to it (Boulder, Fort Collins). It’s a big city, but not too big and while not having a huge crime rate it is a major city and there is an under belly. Also it is and hour away from the Rocky Mountains, so lots of wilds, and trust me as pretty as they are the forest can be super creepy. There is a very wide range of classes and people in the area as well.

  9. I'd second Denver.

    But I'm also going to throw Salt Lake City, Utah into the ring. Salt Lake is right smack in the mountains. A range on either side of it. Plenty of wooded areas just a ten-minute drive away. And there's the West Desert, a place where it seems a lot of bodies are found to have been dumped there.

    There are definitely upscale areas and slummier areas to be had there. And there's a lot of culture and beautiful scenery.

  10. I'm an Aussie too, so I'm probably not much help, but I love Arizona.


  11. I am HAPPY to pitch in. I've lived in Idaho, Oregon and Michigan and visited most of the northern states. The Pacific Northwest is BY FAR my favorite (and may be easier to do, as at least Washington and Oregon mostly aren't as backward as the rest of the US *shifty*

    The regional differentces are HUGE. Geography. Thinking. Manners. Speaking. ALL OF IT. TV and movies mostly give a California view (hip, attractive, material) The northeast coast is manic and driven. The south is folksy, quaint, religious. The midwest is 'really nice' (like literally... people are so annoyingly nice and a little backwards...--says a person living in the midwest). The whole west half of the country is a little harder for me to pin down for me, as it seems 'normal'--but people are independent (actually, I think much of it has sort of Aussie like sentiments, only with a little less innuendo) but that thin strip actually ON the west coast from about San Francisco north is your 'anti-material, progressive, tree hugger, nature loving PEOPLE LIKE ME. I'm happy to have you email if you have some specific questions in trying to pick your spot. hartjohnson23 at gmail dot com

  12. I tend to set my stories in mountain regions, so I am a fan of the Denver area as well. My current WIP takes place in Golden, Colorado.

    I also tweeted this post. Hope it drives traffic your way. :-)

  13. Why not set it in Australia or NZ? We see books set in America ALL the time *grin*.

    And yes, the US has lots of regional differences. I live in a really small town in a largely rural area, so my location doesn't meet your criteria. Otherwise I'd be happy to share information.

  14. I could tell you a bit about the UK ... not much help am I?!:)

    Just dropped by from the land of tweets!


  15. Atlanta, GA is full of suburbs; from Alpharetta-fondly referred to as Marriedville-to College Park-where you have a gun in your car to drive through at night. There are woods and high crime in certain city sections.

    What type of climate would you like for your story? This can impact your plot. South east is easy because we have everything from snow to intense summers.

    I've also lived in Florida. There is ALWAYS crime in Florida and some eerie places. One of my YA paranormal books is set in a local beach town in the woods. (lots of hanging Spanish moss and stuff. :))

  16. I've only ever lived in Washington (Northwest WA, not the capitol :P)But, we've got the right amount of woods you'd be looking for!

    Of course, I'm not suggesting Washington'd be the best place (though I love it) because people might see it as a Twilight knock-off (no matter how much more awesome yours could be).

    I've heard the upper Northeastern states (Maine/Vermont the like) have a pretty woodsy feel, but I don't know about the crime levels. :/

    Also, hi, I'm in your crusade group! Nice to meet you.

  17. I've always wanted to visit New Zealand, but alas Peter Jackson woulddn't hire a tall Lakota to play a hobbit! LOL.

    To get a feel for New Orleans, its legends and m myths, you might want to read my post on Pirate's Alley :

    Wonderful blog you have, Roland

  18. Hi Sari! It's so nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to getting to know you better through the Crusade!

  19. I live in southern California and I love Carlsbad. Its a beach town with laid back attitude and awesome places to go. Museums in Balboa, dining on the beach, and lots of quaint shops. Hope this helps.

    By the way, I'm a fellow crusader and now a follower. =)

  20. I love that you referred to it as cheating on your other project!

    I've actually been to 48 states in a car, so I might be of little help :) I've lived in Seattle, Portland, Northern Idaho, Eastern Idaho, and Utah. I'm kind of a fan of the NW, but that doesn't mean the rest of the country isn't great.

    There are so many great little towns and big towns...and everything in between. I could tell you some great places to visit, but they might not be the same places that you'd want for your story.

    I'm totally a pantser too! I think a lot of your research could be done online. Pick a state, look up crime for different cities, look at images of those cities and then see if they would match what you're thinking of.

    Sorry I'm not being really specific. It's kind of a lot to cover. If you want to ask anything more specific, I'd be happy to let you pick my brain :)

    By the way, we're now in the same Crusade group!

  21. Hi Sari, another Kiwi here :) I love your map, and I so understand your problem! When your story is set in the US, there's so much to get your head around: geography, landmarks, brand names, school terms... lucky we get so much great US TV here (it's all for research, right? :))

  22. Hi, Sari,

    I hopped over from the crusader's list to introduce myself an follow.

    It's nice to meet you.

    Tomorrow is our first challenge... It should be cool.


  23. The Caribbean rocks. Although I went to a non-US island.

    Each region of the US has something to offer. Depends what you're looking for.

    I love the Pacific NOrthwest, so many terrains and climates to choose from - coast, mountains, desert. I've spent a lot of time on the east coast, too. Not as laid back as the west.

  24. Hi there, fellow crusader. :) I throw my $0.02 in. I live in New England (southern New Hampshire) - the four season are great! even though I don't care for the snow much. I live in a smallish town about 45 min from the city of Boston, Massachusetts, 15 mins from the smaller city of Manchester, NH - known as Manchvegas to the locals - and an hour an half-ish from the white mountains. There is such a big mixture of people here that anyone can fit in.

    Good luck in your search for a locale! :)

  25. Oh, how could I resist a chance to put in my two cents worth! Two places to consider: first, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Big city, but very close proximity to the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Seriously, a lot of streets dead-end in mountain trails! (Boulder, CO is like this too, but smaller city; was used as setting in Stephen King's the Stand). Also fun: the fickle mountain climate. Warm sunny one moment, blizzard the next.

    My hometown of Buffalo, New York is another fairly large city, interesting because it sits on the edge of one of the Great Lakes, and to the south its suburbs merge into the Allegheny mountains; not as dramatic as the Rocky Mountains but still lots of forest, very dense, rocky, full of streams and gorges and waterfalls.

    Someday I'm going to tackle a setting in New Zealand and now I know who to ask!

  26. Oh, I love Ben Barnes!

    Well, I live near St. Louis and there's a good bit of crime in the city, plus plenty of wilderness areas around. If I were to visit anywhere in the continental U.S. I'd choose northern California just because it's a beautiful place to visit.

    I'm a fellow Group 10 crusader, just stopping by to say "hi!"

  27. Wow... you guys are absolutely amazing! Thank you all so much for taking a moment to share some of your knowledge with me. This is exactly the sort of stuff I was after.

    If anyone ever needs info about Australia or NZ feel free to pick my brains ;). I've lived all over both countries.

  28. Hey, Sari! Yes, it may be a bit broad, but you know what? With everyone's input, you can create a purely fictitious US city that sounds SO US-y, know what I mean? I think it's awesome that you're doing this!

    Btw, it's great to get to know a fellow crusader!

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

  29. I'm from New York, but now live in Massachusetts. On Long Island in New York (a suburb), Amityville is near/on the water. A movie Amityville Horror was made about the place in 2005. I think it's a remake of an old movie. There's supposed to be a haunted house there. My cousins and I used to drive by and hold our breaths as we sped past. It could give you some context of the place to see both versions of the movie + it's got a well-known creep factor.

    Hope this helps!

  30. Hiya, buddy crusader! I'm making the rounds today and checking out your blog. Nice to meet you, and Happy Friday! :)

    Artzicarol Ramblings

  31. making crusader rounds. Nice to meet you, now following!


  32. I've visited the US lots of times (I'm from Perth :D) and i love it! The US has such a varied landscape, so many beautiful sights to see. plus I have met a lot of lovely people over there. I'm often having to defend the US from biased Aussies who can't stand Americans for no good reason. favourite spots would be L.A. (even though it's a bit grimey, it's really fun hanging out there), Chicago (beautiful shiny downtown buildings, water, etc.), New York (though I haven't been there since the Twin Towers fell) and Washington (lots of pretty cherry blossoms, and nice monuments, etc.). But also the likes of Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Mesa Verde National Park, etc., are lovely to visit.