It’s amazing how we can incorporate characters into our novels that aren’t human. And I don’t mean just animals. A haunted mansion, a small rural town, or even a tropical island -- settings can become characters in and of themselves.
When I wrote my historical, THE PRIVATEER, it was really important to me to create an island that was so real that a reader might believe it actually existed. After I found a location to use in the Leeward Islands (islands in the area of and including Antigua, St. Kitts, and so on), I drew a map of my island with notations for the colony, the homes of my characters, and places of interest. I even included the topography of the land so my heroine would be climbing in the right places, and racing along flat stretches of beach exactly where she should be.
Most importantly, I learned the aspect of creating a setting with its own personality was to truly be able to see it in my own mind’s eye. I studied photographs of Caribbean islands, both modern and historical. As luck would have it, I was able to schedule a three day trip to the Caribbean get a feel for the elements. I even paid close attention to set details of current films. Who can forget the stark impression Port Royal makes on us in the opening scenes of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” when Elizabeth Swann is shown at home? Before I even started my manuscript for THE PRIVATEER, the home of Julius Bertrand and Kate O’Connell was a vivid three-dimensional world in my head. I only had to get it down on paper.
Since creating my romantic island of San Madrid for THE PRIVATEER, I have realized I love creating and writing intriguing settings, almost as much as I enjoy reading about them.