Today I’m pleased to welcome debut author TE Carter to the blog. I hope you enjoy learning about setting and don’t forget to check out TE’s book!
When asked about how I choose a setting, it’s hard to answer that exactly. For me, setting is as much a character as the characters themselves. Every story is affected by place and my favorite books include an immersive sense of place within them. When people talk about world building, they’re often thinking fantasy and science fiction, but writers in every genre do a great deal of world building. Whether it’s pulling from an actual place or taking features from real places and turning them into somewhere new, there’s still a process of creating the where and when of a story.
For my debut YA novel, currently titled I Stop Somewhere and planned for release in 2018, place was a major part of the story. It’s set in a fictional town in New York called Hollow Oaks. A town in that strange area caught between Upstate and Western NY. I chose that area because the story is also about economic depression and sadly, New York is one of the states in the Northeast that has been affected by the mortgage crisis and recession the worst.
I also knew, as a native New Englander, that my story had to be in a place with seasons. Some people say they don’t care about the weather in a story, but when you live in a place like New England, the weather is a story. Seasons create mood and they change people. This is so true in the Northeast. In mid-July, when the sun’s up and the day lasts forever and you can smell someone’s grill going and the ice cream truck is filling the air with its innocent medley, life feels like an opportunity. But come January, as you trek through 14 inches of snow and it’s dark when you leave and when you get home and all you hear and see is silence and darkness, it’s hard to think spring is ever going to happen again. This plays a significant role in my stories, because when you live in this kind of emotionally charged and ever changing place, you start to feel like people mimic seasons themselves.
Hollow Oaks could be any town in theory, but it’s also its own unique place and by being so, it has all the elements I needed for the story to work as I wanted it to work. There used to be factories, but over time, they stopped making things at prices people want to pay, and now they’re abandoned. The people who worked there couldn’t afford their homes anymore and now the town is full of empty houses – zombie houses, as they’re called in the news. Abandoned properties where people couldn’t pay the mortgage, but the banks determined weren’t worth the investment in the foreclosure process.
This sets up a power dynamic that allows some people to get away with things they normally couldn’t. Because, for the average person, it’s easier to look away if the houses on both sides of yours aren’t rotting. You don’t ask too many questions about the person or people who keep your neighborhood looking pleasant.
Plus there’s winter. The endless despair of long winters that people who live in places with long winters know so well. All of these things culminate in a town that is so burdened that it is destined to break.
The story I’m working on now also deals with poverty and seasons, but differently and therefore, the setting changes. I think when you live somewhere your whole life, it becomes a part of who you are. New England and the Northeast provide so much inspiration – from the beautiful and historic villages to the natural wonders to the sad and broken parts that we don’t know how to keep whole. It’s a treasure for contemporary authors, because we are surrounded by so many stories in the people who live here, too.
About the Author:
TE Carter lives in New England and spends a lot of time reading (everything from comic books to classic novels), writing, and being a proud nerd. That means remaining 100% Team Lannister, debating the best companion (still going with Amy Pond), and telling anyone who will listen that The Walking Dead comic is superior to the show (sometimes a bit too loudly). I STOP SOMEWHERE will be her debut novel.
About the Book (description subject to change):
THE LOVELY BONES meets ALL THE RAGE in a searing, heartbreaking story of a lost teenager, and the town she leaves behind.
Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.
Tormented throughout middle school, she begins her freshman year with new clothes, new hair, and a plan: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper. It’s a lonely existence, but at least no one’s tripping her in the halls.
In fact, no one notices her all – until Caleb Breward, son of a local real estate developer. He tells her she’s beautiful, and he makes her believe it. She falls for him, the only person who truly sees her. Ellie loves Caleb, but sometimes she doesn’t like him that much.
Thanks to Caleb’s father’s company, he has access to zombie homes – the abandoned homes left behind during the economic collapse – which provide him and his brother a location to carry out their darkest wishes. And on one black night, Ellie discovers the monster her boyfriend really is.
Ellie wasn’t the first, but now, she watches them do it again and again. She tries to hold onto her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.
The problem is that no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.