Setting as a Character

- by Jana DeLeon

All of my books are set in southern Louisiana, deep in the bayous and swamp where I grew up. Readers often ask if I intend to set all my books there. I can’t say for certain that every book I’ll write during my career will be set in Louisiana, but as of now, they all have been and are intended to be in the near future.

There’s a method to my madness. Louisiana is filled with culture and superstition and lore. It’s a unique landlocked island of individuality amidst a sea of conformity, even down to the legal system which is still operating under Napoleonic Law. Setting books in Louisiana offers a writer the ability to draw on all that oddness and create a unique story that couldn’t happen anywhere else in the world. In other words – setting as a character.

The second reason I choose to set my books in Louisiana is the old writer adage “write what you know.” I know small towns. I know bayous. I know how to run a shrimping barge, crab pots and shuck oysters. I know how to outrun an alligator and how to kill one if I have a clean shot. I know small towns with quirky people (most of them related to me somehow) and I know the huge secrets that the tiniest places can hide for decades.

If you asked me to write about a big city, like New York, it would be an utter fail. I could eventually, but I’d have to live there first. Otherwise, I don’t think I could accurately depict normal everyday life in the big city. It’s simply too far removed from my own experience…well, except for the shopping part. I probably have that much down. And the eating. New York has some of the best restaurants in the country. But there’s all that other stuff that I don’t know – like living in a high-rise apartment and not owning a car. And if you own a car, there’s some complicated parking system in certain areas where you have to park on one side of the street depending on the time of the day. I always envision myself having to run out in yoga pants and slippers to move a car in the middle of the night. I’m used to driveways and living space that doesn’t share walls with strangers. I have dogs that are house-trained, not litter/pad trained.

So for now, my readers will enjoy a nice trip to the bayou -except for the decade-old secrets that rise to the bayou’s surface, and murder, probably a murder somewhere in there.

6 comments

  1. Jana,

    I love your settings. I love Louisiana for the same reason I love your settings. So far, all my settings have been in Texas. But someday I’d love to write one that takes place in New Orleans.

    I bought your book last night. Can’t wait to read it.

    CC

  2. Thank, Christie!

    I think if you decide to set a book in NOLA, that a road trip is in order. :)

  3. Your settings truly do act as a character, Jana, and add a wonderfully unique element to your stories. The result is a compelling page-turner that doesn’t disappoint.

    I picked up THE SECRET OF CYPRIERE BAYOU yesterday and, consequently, stayed up way too late last night reading it. What an outstanding debut with Harlequin Intrigue! Can’t wait for the next ‘bayou’ book!

  4. Thanks, Kathy! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  5. If it wasn’t for you writing about what you know, I’d never know you can train an aligator using hand signals!

  6. LOL Leslie – Well, some people still claim alligators can’t be domesticated, but people have done it. I personally wouldn’t – too dangerous in my opinion. Might as well have the T-Rex from Jurassic Park in your garage. :)