Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do you love exotic settings in your stories?

by Cate Masters

Aloha ladies! Thanks so much for having me as a guest at Desert Island Keepers. The gorgeous island image on your site makes me crave an umbrella drink. And a vacation. :) It’s actually my topic for the next three days: settings. I’ll also give away a PDF of the featured story each day to a random commenter.

Do you love exotic settings in your stories? As someone who doesn’t travel often, I sure do. I love researching them, too.

Although I’ve used other familiar settings in stories – my hometown, or cities in which I’d worked, normally I have to rely on other resources for research. For instance, for Rock Bottom, my upcoming contemporary novel due in June 2011, I sent for a visitor’s guide for Los Angeles to get a feel for the Malibu area. The Internet provides wonderful details, of course, and I was also lucky to find a magazine feature about a great house in The Bu. For now, I’ll have to visit virtually, and bring it to life in my book.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to visit to Key West, Florida, with my family. What a beautiful, funky little island! History’s ingrained in its streets. Walking down Duval Street, I could almost imagine myself walking in the footsteps of previous visitors such as Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, John James Audubon, Tennessee Williams or U.S. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Carter and Kennedy.

Though there’s not much of a beach at Key West, the crystal aquamarine ocean surrounding the island is perfect for snorkeling, sailing in a glass-bottom boat and other water sports. This is the hotel where we stayed – quite the view, isn’t it? I didn’t want to leave.

My vacation grew more exciting when we visited several local maritime museums, where I learned the little-known history of the wreckers. These incredible heroes amazed me. They rescued shipwrecked passengers from certain death during fierce storms, battling nature herself. Afterward, they reaped huge rewards from salvaging the wrecked ship’s cargo, but to me, they earned every penny. In the late 1800s, no real diving equipment existed. The wreckers dove to the ocean floor while holding their breath for minutes while performing dangerous tasks.

Of course, I had to write about it. Freya’s Bower released my historical adventure romance novel, Angels Sinners and Madmen, on July 27.

Here’s the story blurb:
What happens in Key West, stays in Key West. Especially in 1856, when men outnumber women by ten to one. Wrecker Sam Langhorne came to Key West eight years earlier to forget his ruined engagement. When he rescues Livvie Collins from a watery grave, he’s swept away by her beauty and spirit. He’s sworn off love, but is soon captivated by Livvie’s wit–and her determination to remain single.
The death of Livvie’s father leaves her no other option than to sail to New Orleans to live with her brother Wendell. Though she hopes to support herself by writing novels, she’s sure Wendell will try to soon marry her off, and is determined to experience life to its fullest before reaching New Orleans.
Sam is handsome and attentive, constantly surprising her with his intelligence and his interest in current literature and happenings. She gives herself to him in a night of passion so she can know the true emotion at least once in her life. But can she save herself after she arrives in New Orleans?

The first chapter is posted on my web site at, along with an excerpt. I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think.

Historical novels require additional research, of course, to provide setting details accurate for the time. I felt fortune to find those resources on my vacation, not only in the museums, but in the books I picked up by locals who’d researched Key West and its history for many years. The historical documents at the local library, too, were like unearthing a treasure chest.

I hope you’ll find it as intriguing as I did. I’ll give away an ebook of Angels, Sinners and Madmen to a commenter. I’d love to answer any questions, or hear your thoughts. Please include your email address so I can contact you if you win!


Jessica said...

That was very informative and interesting. I always wondered how writers brought their characters and their surroundings to life. Especially when set in older times. Research is understandably the key to a good book. Thanks for the info.

As far as locations go, yes exotic is really nice. It's a nice way to get to know other places. No, I don't travel either...but now and again, reading something close to home is a kick! Reading about places you to, is really neat.

Margaret West said...

The key to a good novel is the research put into it. Yours sounds wonderful, Cate.

Moon_Pie said...

I love exotic settings in books. I know someone who has been to Key West and they described it in great detail. I always thought it sounded neat. And when I travel I always like to stop in maritime museums since I was in the Navy.

Moon_Pie said...

I love exotic settings in books. I always think perhaps some day I might go there. I know someone who has been to Key West and described it in great detail.

Cassie Exline said...

Great excerpt! Just enough to make me want to find out more about Sam and what he does. Good research shows.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post. Key West was a hang out of one of my favorite singers, Jimmy Buffett, nice blurb & excerpt too. I wish you good luck with your novel.
G W Pickle

Heather D said...

My husband and I took the kids to Key West over Spring break. Unfortunately we only had enough time to spend one night and half the next day. It is definitely a place that I intend on revisiting. We were able to get a snorkeling trip in while we were there. We were able to walk to the docks from our hotel, I can't remember the name but it is the tallest building there. The highlight of our night was watching the sunset on the roof with a nice fruity drink. I loved the atmosphere so much that I wouldn't mind being there on a permanent basis!

Exotic locations are my favorite settings for novels.

jstpeachy1976 at yahoo dot com

Dee Julian said...

Key West....even the name sounds romantic. Or am I thinking of Bogart and Bacall?

Cate Masters said...

Hi Jessica, unfortunately I'm mostly an armchair traveler. Luckily, I love to research. I love to read stories set close to home too. I set a few in my hometown, and my other historical's set in Carlisle, Pa, where I used to live, and where the Indian Industrial School was - many stories there!

Thanks so much, Margaret!

I hope you get to visit Key West, Moon Pie. For a tiny island, there's lots there.

Glad you liked the excerpt, Cassie!

GW, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant was on our list of places we had to go. Great margaritas, and burgers too!

Key West is beautiful, Heather. I'd love to go back someday too.

Hi Dee! Hm, I don't know - were any of their films set there? Now I'll have to Google! :)

Unknown said...

Great post! I love exotic locales, destinations that are not often written about. I am currently working on a contemporary set in Istanbul and a historical set along the Silk Road in the 1920's. The research has been extraordinary and I learned a lot.

Willa Edwards said...

I had no idea Key West was like this. I always just saw it as a florida island, more like my grandfather's retirement community.

This sounds great. I'm definitely going to have to see about putting this book on my TBR pile. Just make sure someone comes to check on my if there's a large crash. I might be trapped beneath the pile. ;)

Cate Masters said...

Hm, I left a response earlier, Melissa, but Blogger apparently ate it! It may show up later, but just in case... your research does sound very cool! Best of luck with your writing. One of my CP's is researching pirates for a documentary - also some very cool stuff.

Willa, Key West is very touristy, in a funky way. Definitely not your grandparents' destination! And I hear ya about the TBR pile, mine's dangerously teetering too. :)

Amy Talbot said...

Hi Cate,

thanks for another great article; choosing the perfect setting can make or break a novel.

Of course, if you want exotic, then look no further than New Zealand. Our South Pacific paradise has endless stretches of golden shoreline, rolling pasture-land, snow topped mountains, warm and friendly citizens and a great pioneer history.

what --- I'm biased! Never.

Cate Masters said...

Oh, Amy, I fell in love with New Zealand after the Lord of the Rings movies, where they filmed. Would love to visit there someday. (sigh)

Amy Talbot said...

Sorry Cate, but despite the hype, we don't have many Middle-earth citizens. I think most of the orcs, elves, hobbits and wizards actually hang out in Wales!

Just remember, when you're next planning a holiday, we're only a plane ride away. Forget Key West, forget Mexico or Canada - come see for yourself the country the rest of the world affectionately calls Godzone.

Better yet, as you head into winter, with the expectation of snow, gales and long dark days, we head into a glorious spring and endless days of summer.

Darn, I sound like a travel agent. :)

Unknown said...

At one time, we used to travel quite a bit. Now we are stay-at-homes. But, I do love reading about other settings and especially exotic ones.
Your books sound wonderful. They are on my TBB list.
Great post.

Cate Masters said...

Don't tell my husband, Amy, or we'll be moving there! NZ does look gorgeous, hobbits or no. :)

We are mostly stay-at-homes too, Lorrie. (sigh) But we can dream!

Cate Masters said...

I tossed everyone's name into a bowl and my daughter drew out... (drum roll please).... Dee Julian! Dee, I will email you your PDF. Hope you enjoy it!

Abbie said...

I like both exotic settings and those closer to home. I love the exotic because it gives me a peek at a place I'll probably never seen in person. I like the close ones because it's fun to see the familiar in a book. (Case in point, I grew up about 60 miles from Minneapolis, so I love MJD's Betsey the Vampire books.)

This books looks interesting to me. I'm not much of a swimmer, so I can't imagine diving without equipment.

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