More prominently than in any of my previous novels, the physical environment I depict in Dark Mind plays a pivotal role in the development of the story. Set on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the book offers the stark contrast that those who visit the land will discover between the gorgeous beaches and breathtaking sunsets and the dense forests that are filled with strange shadows and rugged acres that are likely terrifying to anyone but a native. I chose the location following my own visits to Kauai, when of course I had my author mind on alert and realized what an amazing backdrop it offered.
So, that got me thinking . . . how would your hometown serve as the setting for a thriller novel? Are there certain buildings or roads or landscapes that lend themselves to a serial killer on the loose or a sting operation ready to unfold? Here are a couple of examples:
Chicago – The wind blazed through Anne’s hair as she walked along Lake Michigan and thought that winter always seemed to come too soon in her beloved city. While she busied herself with some window shopping along the Miracle Mile, someone from her past was watching her from 100 stories above, in the Sears Tower, and would soon give her chills unlike any December she had experienced.
Nashville – He had stumbled in and out of the honky tonks all night long, draining beer bottles and buying shots for any attractive girl who crossed his path. He was building up the courage to start on a quest that would be more violent and leave more broken hearts than any country song could hope to do.
I would love to read some of your ideas for using your town as an essential character in a story of crime and psychological terror. If you’re convincing, I just might need to make a visit and get some ideas for my next book!
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Jennifer, Love this post and your setting of Kauai as your book setting! Funny, as my book coming out next month A Human Element also has a Hawaii setting in it, Honolulu and Pearl Harbor – where I lived and was stationed in the Navy. A great setting I used there is the Pali Lookout – in the Koolau mountains. Its known for its howling winds and where some people have disappeared over the cliffs – tossed off or jumped…and the ghosts of Hawaiian ancestors roam. A haunted place. Perhaps a setting for another novel? A series on the islands of Hawaii by you? I love Kauai too, lush and beautiful. A neat one would be on Ni-ihau (spelling?) where only the natives live and you can only go by invite…
My book is also based on my teeny rural upstate NY hometown of Westerlo and its sister town Rensselearville. Its in the Helderberg Mountains at the foothills of the Catskills, they loom purple in the distance as tiny roads to nowhere criss cross through the farmland. 18th – 19th century old Dutch settlers, a hamlet of historic buildings, a gorgeous waterfall and an old felt mill, and the Rensselaerville Institute by the lake of the Niles Hyuck Preserve. Its like being at the ends of the Earth. Old revolutionary war cemeteries. Andy Rooney had a summer home here. Lets not forget to mention the famous Rent War. I think would be a neat spot for a crime novel – in the small town of Upstate NY – small minds, simple ways of life, rural folks…all connected by ancestry of some sort…and devious plots and jealousies! Lots of places to hide bodies.
Some ideas for you!
Thanks Donna for your wonderful comments! Great ideas 🙂 When you really sit down and think about all the wonderful and interesting places out there, settings for books are literally endless.
I love anything with the Hawaiian islands because of the culture and the wonderful folklore and stories told through the generations. My serial killer character was a combinations of stories.
Malaysia would be a lovely backdrop for a thriller: hot, humid and exotic, with cosmopolitan skyscrapers existing alongside centuries-old architecture, where old meets new, and age-old superstitions still abound. Ipoh, my hometown, is a mini-city surrounded by lush green hills, with limestone caves nearby which could feature as the labyrinth in a final showdown between the protagonist and villain. 😉
Works for me. Funny, in my short stories I kept coming back to Poeticule Bay, Maine. It’s a combination of two places where I grew up in rural Nova Scotia. I somehow ended back there so often across so many stories that I decided to write whole novels set there. The characters from Poeticule Bay show up again and again, so it was time to succumb since I kept running over the same demons from childhood anyway.
What makes it especially fun is when one story answers a question or makes a sly reference to a side joke that you’d only notice if you read all the stories. The trail of characters will eventually be an interesting artifact for readers of the suspense novels since they’ll be able to backtrack to the short stories and see the birth of familiar people and places. The small towns, and the attendant claustrophobia and taut family dynamics where I grew up, became a rich environment from which to draw.
Hi Jennifer. I use my own region in part in all three of my Steele novels although they do feature more specifically in ‘I Have To Get It Right’ and ‘The 51st State’. My 4th novel is under construction but quite a bit of the early action takes place in Sunderland where I was born and raised.
My hometown is so remote that stores only sell the USA Yesterday. Two thousands miles of the Appalachian Trail end at the boundary line, and the adjacent township goes only by the name T2R8. The loons’ screams echo across our 13 lakes like a hundred stolen children, but the longer you stay, the more it sounds like a lullaby. Welcome to Lincoln, ME.
Love the sound of your hometown!
I come from small Midwest town, Marshall, Michigan. Where everything downtown is almost exactly as it was 100 years ago.
As she walked down the brightly lit street she could smell home in the air. Unknown to her someone new to town also watched the bright Christmas lights on the deserted street with planns to make themdrenched in blood before the season was over.
Jennifer, I feel more comfortable when I write about places I know pretty well. So I tend to come back to East Texas, the Florida Panhandle and Santa Fe. They are all interesting places, but I think any location has a built in set of universal themes.
My hometown in Orrington, Maine…the home of Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. But it truly isn’t a spooky place. It’s quaint. I live on a mountain. At some point I’d love to create a story using my hometown:)