You’ve heard about my Wombat friends – if not, grab one of my books and check the Acknowledgments page; they’re all over the place! – and today, one of them, author Pat Bertram has stopped by with a very clever post! Thanks, Pat!
I feel a little out of my depth here — an inland dweller in the land of merfolk– but it made me think of the importance of setting. Since I’ve lived most of my life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, those mountains form the backdrop of my books, and because of that, they limit the stories I can tell and the characters I can create. My characters all breathe air, are subject to the vagaries of weather, and have to buy shoes. I’m being a bit silly here, but the truth is that setting does affect our stories.
What if I wanted to write a mermaid story? I’d either have to abandon my mountain theme, which I can no more do than breathe water, or I’d have to figure out how it’s possible for merfolk to live in the mountains.
Once upon a time, the area around here was beneath the sea — the soil is alkaline from the leftover deposits, and in spots the ground is totally white from sea salt and calcium. What if there was a remnant, deep in the mountains, of that primordial sea? If that leftover lake could be fed with sweet water to keep it from turning briny like Salt Lake, I could people it with merfolk who became separated from the rest of their kind. What would be the story? That they are trying to find their way home? That they are trying to find a way to live on land because the lake is drying up? That a mountain man and a mermaid fell in love?
That is an example of how setting forms the story. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I purposely worked against the mountain theme. Although the mountains are always there, two of my characters head east to try to escape quarantined Colorado rather than into the mountains. In Light Bringer, which will be published next spring I made use of known under-mountain facilities, such as a mention of NORAD beneath Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, as well as fictional installations. In Daughter Am I, my heroine inherits a farm on the eastern plains and a played out mine near Gunnison, so I included both significant Colorado topographies.
In keeping with the mountains and mermaid theme, and in honor of being a guest here on Judi’s blog, I have a special offer for you. For $16.00, I will send you an autographed copy of Daughter Am I, a mermaid pendant (the mountains in the background are not included), and I will pay postage. Contact me at pat at patbertram dot com, and we will work out the details.
This has been fun. Thank you all for indulging me in my mermountain fantasy.
Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.