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Why Setting is Important to Me
by Lisa Schroeder
It took me a while, as a writer, to realize how much setting matters to me, both when I’m reading stories and when I’m writing them. Taking careful care with setting and the details around it can add so much to a novel. I think it’s one of the reasons I love well-done historical novels, like A NORTHERN LIGHT and HATTIE BIG SKY. I love being taken to a different time and place.
With my first published novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the setting. I was sort of vague about it – just somewhere in California. For that novel, I think it was okay since it’s part ghost story, part love story. Setting didn’t play a big part in the story at all. But as I continued on, I realized writing in verse is easier when I have a setting I can really picture, and that allows me to do some lovely things with the poetry.
THE DAY BEFORE takes place at the beach, and specifically, the town of Newport, Oregon. I used specific places and landmarks in the book to make it as real as I possibly could, and I like how it turned out. As I contemplated the setting for THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU, which I knew would be a small town, I had to decide whether I would use a real small town or make one up. In the end, I went with Willow, Oregon, which is a fictional town and one that comes from some of my other books, though most readers probably won’t get the connection.
Three of my middle grade novels (IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS and FROSTING AND FRIENDSHIP) take place in Willow, Oregon. I wanted a town where the girls could ride their bikes to the library and to their favorite diner, The Blue Moon. I wanted a town where I could make up a new business moving in (Beatrice’s Brownies) so Isabel and her mother would worry about their cupcake shop in relation to this big “chain.” Sometimes it’s just easier to use a fictional town and make it everything you want it to be.
I spent my high school years in a small town. There is a certain feeling that comes from small town life, and I tried really hard to get that across in THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU. Sometimes you get bored and the only thing to do is drive around in the country – that happens in this book. Sometimes there are creek parties – that happens in this book. Sometimes there are gatherings in corn fields or on a little hill tucked back in the woods – that happens in this book.
Readers will get a story about Lauren and Colby and the struggles they’re facing. But readers will also get a taste of small town life – for some, it will be familiar, and others, like those who have lived in big cities all of their lives, it will be very, very different. Either way, it’s a fun setting to visit, and I hope people enjoy their time in the town of Willow.