Thursday, August 1, 2013

Author Spotlight: Jillian Chantal on Location, Location, Location

Today, it's with great pleasure that I welcome Jillian Chantal to the Author Spotlight. She's graciously offered to share a few thoughts with readers and fellow writers about one of the most important elements in fiction. As she calls it...

Location, Location, Location

I’m Jillian Chantal and I want to thank Christina and the Time for Love blog for allowing me to pop in today to talk a little about something near to my heart in my own writing.  Location.

Realtors use this phrase all the time, and I like to think of it as I start a new novel as well. To me, location can be used almost like an additional character.  Stories are fun to plan, and one of the most interesting things to me is selecting where the action will take place. I, for one, like foreign or exotic places. The tag line for my website is Romantic Adventures with an International Flair and those are my favorite tales to tell.

Traveling can assist a writer in making his or her stories more authentic.  We’ve all gone on trips, be they short or long, to the next town or across the ocean.  I recommend that those ventures to other areas be mined for material. Using a small notebook, I jot things as I move about-- such as what neighborhoods abut each other; where the nicest homes are; where the dodgy areas are; and other little details that will add to setting the scene.

I always grab a map or two of the places I visit in case I later decide to set a story there so I’ll have them to compare to areas that my character goes to. I’ve seen several movies set in places I’ve been and it always bugs me when I can tell they’ve moved around in the shooting and that the place where the character is at one point is nowhere near where they are in the next moment. I know that makes me sound anal and maybe I am, but I sure do like to try to be authentic.

I recently received a review from a reader who lives in London and she praised the fact that “the writer nailed the area of London where the story was set” (Greenwich). I recently spent time over there when my son was living in the area. I made notes of streets, pubs, food, types of drinks, the railway stops and also picked up those maps that I love. I really think that made a difference for that reader to feel as if she were really in that area with the characters.

I’ve mined my real life visits for scenery descriptions as well as tourist spots that characters may visit. I have also set a few stories in places I haven’t been physically but I’ve researched by ordering maps and tourist books as well as talking to friends who have been there. I mine that information to use sporadically in the story to make the readers feel they are there. It seems to work as readers have contacted me to say they feel like they are in the places I describe.

I recommend the above for adding authenticity to your stories and to make them come alive for the reader.  Making your story’s location an integral part of the action will add flair to your tale that readers will love. Try adding the little touches that can make a difference,  like personal notes or information that a map or tourist guide can provide. It’ll make your stories shine.  If you’re a reader, please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts about scenery and location. I’m curious if it makes a difference if you’re reading about an area you know well if you can tell if the writer has been there or not.

I appreciate the opportunity to visit and hope that some of the ideas I shared will be helpful.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

From Christina: I want to thank Jillian again for visiting today and sharing her thoughts. Her latest romantic adventure -- with an international flair -- is Moon Dance, from Desert Breeze Publishing. Jillian loves to hear from her readers. You can find her on the web, on Facebook, and through Twitter.


Jillian Chantal is a writer who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida. She lives there with her spouse, her last remaining dependent child and a tuxedo cat that keeps them all amused with his antics and desire to be walked down the street on a leash. She writes what she likes to call romantic adventures and is published with Desert Breeze Publishing; BookStrand Publishing; Secret/Sweet Cravings Publishing; and the non-erotic side of Ellora’s Cave.


  1. Thanks for asking me over to visit today. It's a pleasure to hang out with you!

  2. Jillian, I love how locations inform a story! As a reader, when the book is set in a place I've never been, I get swept up in the setting as part of the unfolding of the story. When the book is set in a place I have been or even know well, I feel like I'm in the story with a friend. (Assuming, of course, that the author knew enough to be accurate.) Thanks for the great post.

  3. Great article! Location is so important to me, too, when it comes to our stories. I think the second thing for me is dialogue matching the characters.
    Thanks for the very good post.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Lynette. I'm glad you liked the post and I'm glad you, as a reader, too, think that location is very important. That was what I was hoping to hear. And I love the fact that you find that if you know the place, that you feel like you're there with a friend. That's cool.

    Shirley: Thanks for the kind words about the post. I agree that location is very important and I'm glad you think so as well. AND dialogue is very vital- especially, like you say, dialogue that matches the characters! thanks for commenting.

  5. Location is integral to a story. it can be a box or a country or the moon, but the writer has to define that space so people can see it in their mind's eye. I've used places where I live and sometimes write out of world made up places so I don't have to deal with the specs of a real place. Although sometimes that can be harder because you have to create a whole new place and paint it in words with enough color others can see it, almost reach out and touch it. But you're right if I pick a local to write about I should get the flavor of the area right, people living there can sense whether the writer took the time to see their world.

    Congrats on your book, Jillian.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Tina. I haven't tried the other-world writing yet but hope to someday. That does seem like it'd be harder to put the reader "there"- I think you're good at that! Location is super important and painting it is a good analogy. I like that. Thanks for the congrats!

  7. I so agree with location being like an additional character. One that brings a visual to the story and keeps it there.

    My mother loved romance and when her health made it impossible for her to travel comfortably she relied on books to take her to places. I remember her telling me how she could get lost in the location of a book.

    Congratulations on the release of Moon Dance.

  8. Hi Jillian. I agree with you on location as well. I am lucky because I write stories about the townsfolks in a mythical town called Paradise Pines right after the 1849 gold rush era died, and we live where the gold rush happened. I love to explore all the old building still remaining and learn from a lot of the traditions that still exist. I would like to think I am bringing back a bit of the old west in my stories.

  9. Jillian, I always find the settings of your books to be vivid and authentic. I love it when an author does her homework. Kudos to you! Nice blog, too.

  10. It's important to get facts straight, too. I recently read a book that took place in Maine and a character went down to the wharf to watch the pelicans. Not gonna happen. So accuracy rates high for me. Nicely done, Jillian.

  11. Thanks for the comment, Lavada. I'm glad your mom found her travels in romance books once she couldn't travel herself any longer. That's a neat way to keep your traveling shoes on. Thanks for the congrats, too.

    Paisley: I think the era you're keeping alive is wonderful. Much success for you on that endeavor.

  12. Melanie - thanks for the kind words. That makes me happy. I'm glad you've enjoyed my settings and locations.

    Ahhh, yes, Sadie and Sophie- that error would throw reader right out of the story. Eek.

    Thanks for the comments.

  13. Loved learning more about how you write. I try my best to get the facts about my places as authentic as I can, but there's nothing like being there to make your work feel real. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Jillian Chantal has a spectacular wit, imagination, and sense of humor and when it spills over into her voice and sense of place in her stories, the reader wins!

  15. Thanks for the comment, J. I agree that there's nothing quite like being there to get the atmosphere right.

    Aww, Petie, that's so wonderful that you think that. What a wonderful compliment! That means so much to me. Thanks for taking the time to say such lovely words.

  16. I think it's really brave to use actual locations for settings. It requires great courage along with the research and presentation. I love that you do this. Many writers use actual locations as inspiration and make up their own. Taking the time to understand your setting and basing it on a real place shows real talent and fortitude; plus your readers know they can trust you and take you seriously.

  17. I never thought about it as brave, Danielle. Maybe I should have- I guess I was too naive at first to think it was a hard thing to do and now it's just natural. You really gave me something to think about. Thanks for the comment and the compliment.