The setting for the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries is not just a prop or a way to entice the reader to enter the realm of these books, although I certainly hope that it does. It is much more than that. For me the setting is the story, at least the beginning of the adventure. It is the only part of the story that I control. I get to start the story by setting the scene. Once I begin the journey the characters come and tell me the rest of the story and I just write it down.
It’s been like that from the very first time I sat down on the wharf in Grand Bank, Newfoundland on the easternmost tip of Canada and gazed out into the fog at the blinking lighthouse. Sgt. Winston Windflower almost walked out of that fog and introduced himself to me and started telling me his story. Sure, I get to limit some character’s voices from time to time and maybe I have a little say over the moral lines that I will allow the characters to play within. But once I have the setting, that opening scene, the story flows on its own.
So, for me, the bigger question is not how the setting affects the story, but rather why an author would choose a particular setting. Because once that choice has been made a lot of things flow from that including the physical environment, the weather and what the characters can actually do during the progression of the story line. I chose the Grand Bank area of Canada because it is located in my home province and I wanted to describe the physical beauty of the natural surroundings and tell some of the history of the area.
I have tried to capture the beauty of the ever-moving ocean and banks of fog that linger on the horizon, but words can barely touch the canvas that creation has revealed to us. That’s why I always put a picture on the front cover that illustrates it far better than my words ever could. Like the lighthouse in Grand Bank on The Walker in the Cape and the boardwalk in Burin on The Body on the T. Or the fishermen’s wharf and fishing stages or rooms in Fortune on A Twist of Fortune. All real places that I have visited and that a reader can too by looking at the cover or reading the book.
The setting by the Atlantic Ocean also makes the weather a real character in all of the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries. It is almost always windy and the potential for some form of precipitation is high at any time of day or in any season. Both of those force people inside, sometimes for a meal, sometimes for coffee, sometimes just for shelter from a storm. It allows me to show people in close quarters where their interactions reveal more of themselves, their true selves and their intentions. Maybe even their motives…. Plus, it’s always a great opportunity to show off the delicious cuisine of the local area and maybe even a chance for Windflower to get a piece of his favorite chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.
For me, I simply couldn’t set the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries anywhere but in Newfoundland. It gives it the touch, texture, smell and feel of the ocean breeze blowing in my hair. The salt air wind whipping the bedsheets drying on the clothesline. It makes the characters come alive and hopefully makes them real to the readers as well. Come back to Grand Bank and experience it yourself in the latest adventure, A Tangled Web.