- by Patricia Rosemoor
In my July Intrigue Deal Breaker, my main setting is Lake Geneva, WI and the area of Williams Bay. The reason I think it’s weird that I never used it as a setting before is because I go there so often for writers retreats.
My author friend and member of my critique group Sherrill Bodine has a home in Williams Bay on a bluff overlooking the water. Our critique group gathers there for three or four days usually three times a year. Even in the winter when a storm can trap us as it did one night. The house is on a bluff but down from the main road, and the ice on the drive made it impossible to get out until morning when we were rescued by a salt truck. Our retreats are a great way to get to know one another better – we’re more like sisters than friends – and a great way to get a lot of work done, particularly brainstorming. And yes, as usual, my critique partners helped me figure out some plot details that made Deal Breaker better.
So finally, after what – 15 years? more? – I decided it was time to use Lake Geneva, and the setting I knew so well. It’s a beautiful place, a town that survives on tourism. Chicagoans have been going there for vacations and the wealthy have been buying vacation homes on the lake or in the small towns surrounding it for more than a century. One of the interesting things I know about the area is that many of the older homes don’t have central heat because they weren’t meant to be “year round” residences. They were considered to be “beach cottages.”
I would love to have a multi-million dollar cottage on the lake. One of my favorite things to do is take the boat out and circle the shore so we can drool at all the incredible residences and try to decide on our favorites–an old one that has been there for a century or something built in the last decade. I’ll take either!
Another favorite thing is to use the wave pool (which plays a particularly erotic role in the book). I’m happy just floating out there at the top of the bluff looking out onto the lake and watching the boats go by.
I use storms in the book, appropriate for the gothic tone, perhaps because we often pick times when it rains and there are thunderstorms. Lightning over the lake is probably very dangerous, but it looks cool.
My haunted mansion in the book is an extrapolation of a real mansion on the other side of the lake, once owned by a literary agent, who has since passed away. I never got to see the estate in person. It’s now open to the public, but tours go ONLY by boat from the Lake Geneva pier, and the day we were going to go out there and explore, it rained. Sigh. So I had to do non-personal research on that one and then add things that made the setting more effective.
I had a great time writing DEAL BREAKER and feel that it’s a tribute to my writing group–we have shared so much together, and I’ll always treasure the good times we have on our retreats.
I’d love to hear how settings inspire you–either to write or simply to enjoy reading. And have you ever read about a place that you just HAD to go see in person?