LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
By Annette Dashofy
As I was pondering a topic for this blog, I learned of the passing of one of my favorite authors, Aimee Thurlo. I loved her Ella Clah series. Last summer I made my first trip out west and spent several days in New Mexico near Farmington and Shiprock, Ella’s stomping grounds. Aimee Thurlo had so vividly painted the picture in my mind with her words I felt like I’d been to the “four corners” many times before.
From there, I started thinking about some of my other favorite authors and realized a common thread. They all use setting as a character. Craig Johnson’s Wyoming in his Longmire series. Julia Spencer-Fleming’s New York state in her Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Linda Castillo and Ohio Amish Country. Deborah Coontz and Las Vegas. Kathleen George and Pittsburgh.
There are others, of course. But I love how these authors lead you through the cities and countryside and leave you feeling as if you’ve been on that mesa or in that barn, gambled in that casino, or eaten in that neighborhood diner.
Maybe it’s because I’m not what you would call “well traveled,” but I tend to gravitate toward stories with vivid settings. If I can’t manage to climb onto an airplane and see the sights, at least let me go there in my mind and experience the cultures, customs…and sometimes food.
When I was playing with ideas for a new series of my own, it was only natural that setting become an important issue. “Write what you know,” they suggest. What I know—location-wise—is rural southwestern Pennsylvania. I’ve lived here all my life. I grew up on my grandparent’s dairy farm. My husband and I built our log cabin on ten acres of it. You could say with a great deal of accuracy that I have deep roots. I’ve rode horses through these woods. I’ve baled hay in the squelching heat of summer, and I’ve broken ice out of the water buckets in the biting cold of winter.
And I worked on the local ambulance service, dealing with drunks in the small-dives, delivering babies that couldn’t wait to make it to the hospital twenty miles away…and discovering that the heart attack victim in full arrest happened to be an old family friend.
I’ve created a fictional township and fictional towns in a fictional county. Why not use the real places? Two reasons. One: I wanted to mix and match. My Vance Township contains features of several local municipalities. Monongahela County only exists in my books, but I’ve stolen parts of Allegheny, Washington, and Fayette Counties to create it. Reason number two: I’m not a cop, but I write about them. If I get something wrong (and try as I might to avoid it, I’m sure I do), hey, it’s Monongahela County. That’s the way things are done here!
Fictional or not, I hope if you read Circle of Influence you’ll feel as though you’ve visited this corner of Pennsylvania. And if you do get to come here one day, you’ll feel like you know the place…just like I did when I visited Ella Clah’s northwestern New Mexico.
About the Book:
Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township, has been privy to a number of local secrets over the years, some of them her own. But secrets become explosive when a dead body is found in the Township Board President’s abandoned car. As a January blizzard rages, Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams launch a desperate search for the killer, even if it means uncovering secrets that could not only destroy Zoe and Pete, but also those closest to them.
Annette Dashofy, a Pennsylvania farm gal born and bred, grew up with horses, cattle, and chickens. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT for the local ambulance service, giving her plenty of fodder for her Zoe Chambers mystery series including CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE (Henery Press, March 2014) and LOST LEGACY (Henery Press, September 2014) Her short fiction, including a 2007 Derringer nominee, has appeared in Spinetingler, Mysterical-e, Fish Tales: the Guppy Anthology, and Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales (December 2013).