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Tasha Alexander | How I Choose the Setting for my Books


When I sat down to begin the fifth installment in my Lady Emily series, I thought very seriously about where to set the book. Location is an essential tool when writing about continuing characters, not only because it provides the opportunity to introduce readers to another place, but also because it gives the author a chance to drop her creations into a new environment, one that exposes them to a broader, different world. A world that can be difficult, but one that in the end allows them to grow.

Because in Dangerous to Know, Emily is recovering from the ghastly wounds inflicted upon her at the end of Tears of Pearl, I wanted to send her somewhere idyllic and beautiful. But I also wanted it to be a place where terrible secrets could be hidden.

Normandy proved the perfect choice. Its sweeping landscapes look straight out of an Impressionist painting, and dotted throughout I found the ruins of châteaux, crumbling medieval abbeys, and rambling houses that screamed for ghosts. I spent a good portion of last summer researching and writing there, getting to know the area, the people, and the food. It was Author Heaven (especially if, like me, you’re irresistibly drawn to cheese...). As I explored, the details of the book took shape, and I was able to construct a story that would challenge Emily and let her grow.

I do much of my research through reading. My office is heaped with books, maps, and pictures. I focus on memoirs, letters, and diaries, as well as historiography, always wanting to be meticulous about historical accuracy. As important as that is, nothing can match being immersed in the culture about which you’re writing. It allows a writer to marry detail with atmosphere in a way nothing else can. Dangerous to Know is the richer for the time I spent in France. I only wish I could have brought the cheese home with me...




10 comments posted.

Re: Tasha Alexander | How I Choose the Setting for my Books

I used to have a French Normandy home with a turret and French doors, so setting and architecture is key to have structure to put your characters in and up against as a backdrop. You chose a great period of time to promote.
(Alyson Widen 3:31pm October 25, 2010)

You need a bigger suitcase :>) You can't believe the food we brought home from a trip to Germany - and then found a little shop not far from where we lived at the time that sold the same things we had brought home.
(Karin Tillotson 4:19pm October 25, 2010)

I have been fortunate to visit Normandy, when my husband was in the Air Force. It is a beautiful setting for a book.
(Robin McKay 5:28pm October 25, 2010)

Location plays a huge role in any book.
(Mary Preston 5:46pm October 25, 2010)

Yes, Normandy is indeed beautiful, especially if you get on to the back country roads along the coast. I was there a few years ago, and luckily still have all my photos from there.

Did you try the Cider too? I know that you can get it over here, along with some of the cheeses, but not enough of them, unfortunately!


(Lynn Rettig 5:52pm October 25, 2010)

I love to read & learn about new locations, especially if it makes me want to visit the location.
(Diane Sallans 8:52pm October 25, 2010)

I enjoy different locations in books so I can dream about going myself so keep bring the great locations.
(Vickie Hightower 9:56pm October 25, 2010)

It sounds like you picked a wonderful location for your latest book -- not only the History involved, but the interesting twists you can take with the story line!! I can't wait to read the book!! I love the periodic clothing on the cover as well. There's nothing "cheesy" about it. Sorry for the pun, but I couldn't help it. lol My Father served in Normandy for part of his term of service during WWII. He was all through that area. It gave me an even bigger attachment to your book. Congratulations on the latest book of your series. I'm sure it's wonderful.
(Peggy Roberson 10:44pm October 25, 2010)

Thanks for all the great comments, guys!
It's great to "meet" all of you (so to

Lynn, I did try the cider. Delicious!
(Tasha Alexander 11:51pm October 25, 2010)

I love having books based in interesting locations so that I may be there, taken away, while I lay on the couch reading, to a new place! Thanks to authors like you, I can be taken there!
(Brenda Rupp 4:48am October 26, 2010)

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