Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Novels Set Near Home: What Do You Think of Them?

Have you ever read a novel set near where you live? While I really liked the exotic feel of Sanctuary for a Lady, my novel set during the French Revolution, I’m enjoying the ease of researching and writing a new story set a couple hours away from me.

Here’s some facts I’ve learned:

Northern Michigan’s copper mining boom produced more wealth than the California Gold Rush. Can you believe that? I nearly fell over when I  read it. I mean, everyone learns about the California Gold Rush in history class, but who’s ever heard of Michigan’s Copper Boom?


The railroad came to northern Michigan nearly forty years after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. That’s right. In 1869, you could take a train from the Atlantic to Pacific, but you couldn’t take a train from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior until 1907.

Many towns along the Lake Superior coastline could only be reached by boat.

The Northwestern portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula gets over 200 inches of snow per winter.


Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was originally settled by loggers and miners who came to work in logging and mining camps in the 1840’s through 1890’s. This led to a large population of men and few women, similar to how the West had an overabundance of men and a small number of women.

One of the other great things about reading or writing a book set near you is you can take road trips. The story I’m currently working on is set in the small coastal town of Eagle Harbor, Michigan during the 1880s. Eagle Harbor is located on a little slip of land jutting out into Lake Superior. It had no train or telegraph, and due to the ice on the big lake and in the harbor, was only accessible to ships from April through November. The town was completely cut off from the rest of the country from December to March every year, when it got buried under several hundred inches of snow.

So naturally I took a road trip and found some pictures.

Now that I’ve told you about an interesting place for a novel around me, I’m curious about you. Where do you live? And what historical things occurred in your home area that would make for an interesting book?
A mother of two young boys, Naomi Rawlings spends her days picking up, cleaning, playing and, of course, writing. Her husband pastors a small church in Michigan's rugged Upper Peninsula, where her family shares its ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer and bald eagles. Naomi and her family live only three miles from Lake Superior, where the scenery is beautiful and they average 200 inches of snow per winter. Naomi writes bold, dramatic stories containing passionate words and powerful journeys.


  1. I haven't read books set near me the closest is about 3 and a half hours away by Car and I did know the area a bit. Reading a book set where I have been is fun. Reading a couple set in Hawaii I was Oh I remember that place or I went there.
    We do have history here and we have the heritage listed Naracoorte Caves.

  2. That's neat that you've got some books set somewhere close to you. I love the way novels can make history come to life like that. And that's an awesome point about reading a book set somewhere you've been. Anytime you've got real life experience to match a novel's setting, I think it adds another dimension to your reading experience!

  3. Thats so true. reading about Maui and even The Big Island was like being there again.
    The funny thing when I was on my way to Seattle on a bus from Vancouver I saw a barn and went wow its just like in the tv shows. Our barns or sheds are so different and not the same shape. it was like what I saw on tv wasn't real.

  4. That's neat the way North American barns clicked for you after you saw one. I have no idea what barns Down Under look like!

  5. I think its fun to read a story set near my home. It cool to recognize the places. One John Grisham novel I read had several scenes in a beach community not far from where I live. It's fun to see movies set in places you know, too.

  6. I'm reading one now set in my town and there's a chase scene. The heroine is speeding down the same Interstates I speed down. It's a little jarring but I like it.

    Jenny, cool info about the barns. I'm with Naomi, I have no idea what they look like down under. If I ever visit, I'll have to take a walkabout.

  7. I've read a few set near where I live and it's great to be able to picture some of the streets and have family who had experiences at the same time as when the book was set.
    In All These Things by Marjorie Buckingham is one of my favourites. I often walk some of the streets and catch the Melbourne trams.

    I do get frustrated when authors write about Australia but have never been there, and put their own cultural spin or words to describe things (here a ranch is called a station or farm depending on the size).

    Near me is an old mansion that has some pretty graphic history, with ghost stories.

  8. I love the things you discovered about your area, which are all fodder for wonderful books. My area is full of worthy things to be written about as well. I live on a ranch in the west.

  9. Merilee, I don't know that I've ever seen a movie set near where I live. Though Home Improvement with Tim Allen was set in the Detroit area, and that was fun. (I lived there when growing up.)

  10. Pamela, how fun about those speeding interstates! That's what makes me nervous about setting a book somewhere I've never been. Other people undoubtedly live there. And they're probably laughing at me as I slaughter the setting, which directions my characters should turn heading outside of town, and the like.

  11. Beth, you're making me gulp, since I have a book set in France and have never been there. I tried to make it realistic though, I promise!

    I think what you're saying is even more true for contemporary stories as opposed to historicals. Historical authors can at least research the time period, trends, and mentality.

    When it comes to contemporary novels portraying the culture of a certain area, there aren't research books written on such things yet. The differences are something people just know, but aren't always recorded.

  12. LOL, Cathy! A ranch out west is DEFINITELY novel fodder. :-)

  13. I love to use Wisconsin as a setting for stories. But I also like other historical setting like nYC in 1917 & Texas in 1821~

  14. Wisconsin could make a really cool setting during it's frontier days. :-)

  15. Beth I agree there is one author who put far north Queensland with in about 2 hours drive of Sydney New South Wales and that really annoyed me.
    Its one reason I love Robin Jones Gunn's sisterchick book about NZ and Australia because it was from an American coming here the funny thing was some of the things she did I had actually done also.